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This Robotic Insect Can Jump on Water

Why? Because it’s cool

(Seoul National University)
smithsonian.com

Robots seem to be able to do anything these days — from clearing clogged arteries to sniffing out disease in crops. Now robots can add jumping on water to their resume, Sid Perkins reports for Science. Scientists have designed a tiny robot that’s so light, it can bounce at the surface of a puddle.

To build their bot, the team drew inspiration from an unusual source: insects called water striders. These bugs possess the handy ability to leap across a puddle or a pond without a single splash. Water striders weigh so little that water’s surface tension can support them, explains Perkins. Hairs on their feet also help keep them afloat.

The strider-inspired robot uses similar methods. It weighs a mere 68 milligrams—seven times the weight of a water strider but still light enough, writes Arielle Duhaime-Ross for The Verge. Its legs are water-repellent, and heat-activated springs push them down at a speed that won’t break water’s surface. All this allows them to walk and jump on water rather than faceplanting.

Why design a robot that can jump on water? Aside from their undeniable cool factor, the aquatic jumping robots could one day be used to find victims of a flood, monitor watery environments and, of course, surreptitiously sneak up on their human overlords.

Watch the insects and robots in action below:

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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