GEAR_Logo RoboClam

The aim of the RoboClam project is to generate low-power, compact, lightweight, and reversible sub-sea burrowing technology. Applications for this work include dynamic and reversible anchors, littoral reconnaissance, ocean sensor placement, subsea cable installation, and self-installing oil recovery equipment. RoboClam technology is based on the digging mechanisms of Atlantic razor clams, (Ensis directus), which drastically reduce burrowing drag by using motions of their shell to locally fluidize the soil. We have successfully adapted localized fluidization burrowing into engineering applications via the RoboClam robot, which has demonstrated successful digging in both granular and cohesive soils. Ongoing work on this project is focused on articulating the parametric relationships behind localized fluidization in order to create design rules for tuning RoboClam technology to many size scales, substrates, and applications. We are currently developing a new, self-contained RoboClam that will serve as the prototype for a commercial product. We are also investigating whether RoboClam technology can be used to burrow in deep soil applications (>10 m), as well as in dry substrates.


Hosoi Research Group, MIT
Precision Engineering Research Group, MIT
Losert Lab, University of Maryland

Bluefin Robotics
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program


A.G. Winter, V., R.L.H. Deits, D.S. Dorsch, A.H. Slocum, A.E. Hosoi. “Razor Clam to RoboClam: Burrowing Drag Reduction Mechanisms and their Robotic Adaptation,” Bioinspir. Biomim. 9: 1-11 (2014). (Link to abstract)

A.G. Winter, V, R.L.H. Deits, D.S. Dorsch. “Critical Timescales for Burrowing in Undersea Substrates via Localized Fluidization, Demonstrated by RoboClam: A Robot Inspired by Atlantic Razor Clams.” 37th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME IDETC/CIE 2013. Paper# DETC2013-12798.

A.G. Winter, V., R.L.H. Deits, A.E. Hosoi. “Localized fluidization burrowing mechanics of Ensis directus,” J. Exp. Biol. 215 (12): 2072-2080 (2012).

A.G. Winter, V., A.E. Hosoi. “Identification and Evaluation of the Atlantic Razor Clam (Ensis directus) for Biologically-inspired Subsea Burrowing Systems,” Integr. Comp. Biol. 51 (1): 151-157 (2011).

S. Jung, A.G. Winter, V., A. E. Hosoi, “Dynamics of digging in wet soil,” Int. J. Nonl. Mech. 46, 602 (2011).

A.G. Winter, V. Biologically Inspired Mechanisms for Burrowing in Undersea Substrates. Ph.D. Thesis, MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, September 2010.

A.G. Winter, V, R.L.H Deits, D.S. Dorsch, A.E. Hosoi, A.H. Slocum. “Teaching RoboClam to Dig: The Design, Testing, and Genetic Algorithm Optimization of a Biomimetic Robot.” IEEE IROS 2010. Paper # WeET11.3, 2010.

A.G. Winter, V, R.L.H. Deits, D.S. Dorsch, A.E. Hosoi, A.H. Slocum. “Multi-substrate burrowing performance and constitutive modeling of RoboClam: a biomimetic robot based on razor clams.” 34th Annual Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME IDETC 2010. Paper# DETC2010-29060.

A.G. Winter, V, A.E. Hosoi, A.H. Slocum, R.L.H. Deits. “The Design and Testing of RoboClam: A Machine used to Investigate and Optimize Razor Clam-Inspired Burrowing Mechanisms for Engineering Applications.” 33rd Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME IDETC 2009. Paper# DETC2009-87609.

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