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‘Roboclam’ Digs Fast and Deep Mimicking Atlantic Razor Clam

Mechanical engineers from MIT have developed an underwater digging machine called ‘Roboclam’

The mechanical robot can dig fast and deep underwater to lay underwater cables, detonate mines, and anchor things to the seafloor.

‘Roboclam’ mimics the Atlantic razor clams burrowing techniques to dig deep. The Atlantic razor clam burrows itself quickly through mud and sand by opening and closing its shell rapidly to create a vacuum of water around itself allowing the mollusk to slide easily through the wet sand by reducing drag.

MIT researchers led by Amos Winter have been developing ‘Roboclam’ a digging machine consisting of two pneumatic pistons, which power a 9cm-long motor and mimic the razor clam’s shell. Winter and his colleagues have been experimenting with ‘Roboclam’ performing more than 300 tests with the digging machine in their lab, and in the razor clam’s natural environment in the mudflats off the coast of Gloucester, Mass.

The machine can dig at about the same rate of the razor clam, which is about 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) per second. ‘Roboclam’ uses “genetic algorithm” to record the robots every movement for learning purposes.

By burrowing quickly through soil and reducing drag, razor clams and the ‘Roboclam’ can burrow with energy that scales linearly with depth.” Winter said.

The researchers have been working closely with Bluefin Robotics, a based out of Massachusetts that builds and operates robotic underwater vehicles for defense, commercial and scientific purposes. Once researchers have perfected the prototype, ‘Roboclam’ could anchor Bluefin Robotics’ vehicles when they need to remain stationary in a current, Winter said.

Once fully developed the underwater digging machine will be ready to drop anchor and prove its usefulness.

‘Roboclam’ Digs Fast and Deep Mimicking Atlantic Razor Clam.

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