What Tiny Surfing Robots Teach Us About Surface Tension
Spend an afternoon by a creek in the woods, and you’re likely to notice water striders — long-legged insects that dimple the surface of the water as they skate across. Or dip one side of a toothpick in dish detergent before placing it in a bowl of water, and impress your grade-schooler as the toothpick gently starts to move itself across the surface.
Both situations illustrate the concepts of surface tension and propulsion velocity. At Michigan Tech, mechanical engineer Hassan Masoud and PhD student Saeed Jafari Kang have applied the lessons of the water strider and the soapy toothpick to develop tiny surfing robots that propel themselves forward by chemically manipulating surface tension.
Read about the insights these microrobots offer into chemical propulsion at fluid interfaces on mtu.edu/news.