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RoboClam to the Rescue

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Many people enjoy eating fried clams and chowder. Now, it appears those tasty sea creatures could eventually change the way the military, oil drillers and even sailors dig into the sea.

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“Razor clams are like the Ferraris of underwater digging," Amos Winter, a mechanical engineer at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., told Ivanhoe. "They can dig very fast. They dig very efficiently. They dig very deep."

To study the razor clam, Winter created a glass box filled with water and sand.

“They actually create quicksand around their body," Winter said.

Quicksand is created by the clam’s rapid up and down movement while opening and closing its shell, making the sand around it easier to dig through.

Winter then created the RoboClam. A computer software program controls the robot’s movement. A scuba tank filled with compressed air moves two pneumatic pistons that create the same motion of the razor clam. RoboClam’s efficient burrowing technique could help anchor autonomous underwater vehicles used to research what lies beneath the sea.

“The RoboClam for Bluefin could give us more capable AUVs with a self-deployed anchor at a lower cost at a lower power then current technology," David Kelly, CEO of Bluefin Robotics Corporation in Cambridge, Mass., told Ivanhoe.

Or one day, RoboClam could help recover oil from parts of the ocean that are difficult to access. It could even assist the military.

“If there are land mines in a field, we may be able to drop a clam-like device that digs into the sand, then detonates all those mines," Winter said.

Winter hopes RoboClam will also lead to smart anchors, making it easier for boaters to sail away. He is working on the mechanics of RoboClam to fit specifications for a compact efficient anchor.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, and the American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Anette "Peko" Hosoi
(617) 253-4337

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Pender McCarter

James Riordon, Media Relations
American Physical Society
College Park, MD
(301) 209-3238

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