It’s hard for a human to imagine successfully walking on water, but it’s actually pretty common within the animal kingdom. Creatures that weigh a tiny fraction of our weight can manipulate the surface tension on a body of water to move around.
According to a report from Phys.org, an international team of scientists has drawn inspiration from the water strider, and created a robot that can leap from the surface of the water.
Researchers from Seoul National University, Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have offered new insights into the mechanics of the “magic bugs” that seemingly decline to distinguish between water and solid ground.
The water strider has evolved to press the surface of the water at the right speed for just the right amount of time to a specific depth, allowing it to jump and step. Its legs have slightly curved tips and move rotationally to help them take off.
Using inspiration from the bug’s design, the researchers got to work. The prototype robot glider can exert up to 16 times its own weight against the surface water without sinking, with relatively simple controls. It was built using a “torque reversal catapult mechanism,” which drew inspiration from the way fleas jump.
You can check out a video of the water-striding robot here: