Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

MIT’s RoboSnails Model Novel Movements

Date:
September 5, 2003
Source:
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Summary:
The humble snail, trailed by its ribbon of slime, now has its first robotic counterpart in research at MIT that could lead to new forms of locomotion for future machines.

The humble snail, trailed by its ribbon of slime, now has its first robotic counterpart in research at MIT that could lead to new forms of locomotion for future machines.

RoboSnails I and II each consist of electronics aboard a rubber “foot” about six inches long by one inch wide. The robots glide over a thin film of “mucus,” or silicon oil. The two were created to test mathematical simulations describing forms of snail locomotion.

Snails “can maneuver over a range of complex terrains—even across ceilings—and they’re very mechanically simple,” said Assistant Professor Anette “Peko” Hosoi of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, principal investigator for the work. They also don’t have exposed joints, so a machine based on their form and covered with rubber resistant to corrosion can navigate in chemically harsh environments.

The research could also give insights into common biological systems such as blood flow through a vein. That’s because many systems involve the same general phenomenon behind snail movement: fluid flow contained by a flexible boundary. A snail propels itself by pushing a fluid—mucus—between its body (the “flexible boundary”) and the ground.

When Hosoi and colleagues (graduate student Brian Chan, senior Susan Ji and junior Catherine Koveal, all of mechanical engineering) first began exploring snail locomotion, they found little information on the subject. “Most sources said that snails lay down a layer of mucus then move with their foot, but there was no detail,” said Chan. So he brought some snails to the lab and studied them with tools including a video camera.

“Snails have three different modes of locomotion,” he said. For example, some travel over the mucus by undulating their bodies in tiny waves moving from the front of the animal to the back.

“By pushing [the fluid] backwards, they can build up large pressures in the thin layer of mucus. The sum of all these pressures then pushes the snail forward,” explained Hosoi. RoboSnail I mimics this “backward undulating” form of movement.

Snails can also move forward by undulating in the reverse direction, from back to front. “Imagine a carpet with a kink in it,” Chan said. In this case, the kink, at the end of the snail’s tail, propagates forward—and moves the snail in the same direction—as the animal stretches out. RoboSnail II, which was completed last month, mimics this “forward-undulating” movement.

The snail’s third form of locomotion? It actually gallops. Like an inchworm, the animal sticks the front of its foot to a surface (thanks to suction and friction from the mucus), then draws the rest of its body up behind it. (The engineers have no immediate plans to build a galloping robot.)

Although the research has only been underway since last November, the engineers are excited about some initial results. For example, said Hosoi, it was previously thought that movement (like that of a snail) over a fluid requires a non-Newtonian fluid, or one that can behave like a solid or liquid. “We’ve shown that you don’t need that at all. It’ll work with any sort of fluid, so long as the fluid is viscous enough.”

The team also found that RoboSnail I, which Chan calls “a little crude,” actually performed well, traveling at a speed close to that predicted by the team’s mathematical models.

The research is conducted at MIT’s Hatsopoulos Microfluids Lab. It is funded by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "MIT’s RoboSnails Model Novel Movements." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030905072634.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. (2003, September 5). MIT’s RoboSnails Model Novel Movements. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030905072634.htm
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "MIT’s RoboSnails Model Novel Movements." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030905072634.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Several companies unveiled virtual reality headsets at the Tokyo Game Show, Asia's largest digital entertainment exhibition. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple's iOS8 Includes New 'Killswitch' To Curb Theft

Apple's iOS8 Includes New 'Killswitch' To Curb Theft

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) — Apple's new operating system, iOS 8, comes with Apple's killswitch feature already activated, unlike all the models before it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins