New Robot Can Walk and Jump on Water

By Chelsea Whyte on July 29, 2012 7:45 PM EDT

Chinese scientists have created the first micro-robot to manage both walking and jumping on water. In a move that mimics the water strider - a long spindly-legged insect that gets the nickname "Jesus bug" for its ability to maneuver its ultralight body over water surfaces - the robot can skim across a pond and uses a coiled spring to jump and land again without submersing.

So how does the bio-inspired bot do it?

Its five legs are made up of carbon-fiber bars that sit atop supports made from super water-repellent nickel, reports Wired. When dropped onto water, a pocket of air forms around the nickel, preventing the legs from sinking.

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The robot is six inches long and weighs about 1,000 times what a real water strider would - around the weight of a wooden pencil. It has three support legs and two spring-loaded legs that coil and propel it six inches high and a foot forward. The power provided by its legs push the micro-robot forward at a rate of 3.6 miles per hour.

The jumping maneuver was the trickiest bit to engineer, said researchers, because the downward force needed to push the bot forward usually pulls the legs beneath the water. 

'Such robots could skim across lakes and other bodies of water to monitor water quality or act as tiny spies,' the researchers said, according to The Nation.

You can see the micro-robot in action here: 

Their work is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. 

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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