Robosnail: Devices for Snail-Inspired Locomotion


Brian Chan

Mechanical Engineering Dept, MIT

Gastropods are able to take advantage of viscous newtonian and non-
newtonian fluids to travel on terrain that is slippery, irregular, or
otherwise difficult to traverse. We have built two devices, Robosnail
1 and Robosnail 2, which are able to move freely using the same
physical mechanisms as real snails. Robosnail 1 uses peristaltic
motions of a flexible foot on a thin layer of newtonian fluid to
generate lubrication pressures, which result in a propulsive force.
Robosnail 2 uses compression waves on its foot to travel over a layer
of shear-thinning fluid (Carbopol), analogous to snail mucus.
Robosnail 2 is able to climb vertical and inverted surfaces,
effectively gluing and un-gluing itself with the non-newtonian fluid
layer.

This talk will cover the basic physics and mathematics that allow
snails to move over newtonian and non-newtonian (Bingham) fluids,
leading to analytical and numerical results that support the
experimental findings. I will also mention the various applications
of Robosnail in the oil-drilling environments, which is the current
focus for Robosnail at the Hatsopoulos Microfluids Lab at MIT.