Even the best-designed boat anchors are suboptimal in their holding power; when they drag across the floor of a lake or ocean they can do extensive damage to their surroundings. Now researchers at MIT have developed the prototype of an anchor that drills into the sediment using the same mechanism employed by a clam.
The clam first wiggles a fleshy foot into the sand below and pushes its shelled body upward. This creates a tiny pocket of space under the shell, which sucks in both water and sand. At the same time, it clamps shut its shell with a pronounced twitch that creates more slick slurry, while pumping blood into the extended foot.
The RoboClam prototype is powered by compressed air; production models will have internal power sources and will be able to "unset" themselves with minimal disruption of the seabed.
Link, and related video. Photo: RoboClam on the right, and a razor clam on the left. (Donna Coveney/MIT)