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


Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

A Microstructural View of Burrowing with RoboClam [🔗]
Nordstrom, K., Dorsch, D., Losert, W., & Winter, A., Physical Review E (2015)

Razor Clam to RoboClam: Burrowing Drag Reduction Mechanisms and their Robotic Adaptation [🔗]
Winter, A., Deits, R., Dorsch, D., Slocum, A., & Hosoi, A., Bioinspiration and Biomimetics (2014)

Localized Fluidization Burrowing Mechanics of Ensis Directus [🔗]
Winter, A., Deits, R. & Hosoi, A., Journal of Experiemental Biology (2012)

Identification and Evaluation of the Atlantic Razor Clam (Ensis directus) for Biologically-inspired Subsea Burrowing Systems [🔗]
Winter, A. & Hosoi, A., Integrative and Comparative Biology (2011)

Dynamics of digging in wet soil [🔗]
Jung, S., Winter, A. & Hosoi, A., International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics (2011)

Peer Reviewed Conference Articles

Critical Timescales for Burrowing in Undersea Substrates via Localized Fluidization, Demonstrated by RoboClam: A Robot Inspired by Atlantic Razor Clams [🔗]
Winter V, A.G., Deits, R.L.H., & Dorsch, D.S., 37th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME IDETC/CIE (2013)

Teaching RoboClam to Dig: The Design, Testing, and Genetic Algorithm Optimization of a Biomimetic Robot [🔗]
Winter V, A.G., Deits, R.L.H., Dorsch, D.S., Hosoi, A.E., & Slocum, A., IEEE IROS (2010)

Multi-Substrate Burrowing Performance and Constitutive Modeling of RoboClam: a Biomimetic Robot Based on Razor Clams [🔗]
Winter V, A.G., Deits, R.L.H., Dorsch, D.S., Hosoi, A.E., & Slocum, A., 34th Annual Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME IDETC (2010)

The Design and Testing of RoboClam: A Machine used to Investigate and Optimize Razor Clam-Inspired Burrowing Mechanisms for Engineering Applications [🔗]
Winter V, A.G., Hosoi, A.E., Slocum, A.H., & Deits, R.L.H., 33rd Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME IDETC (2009)


An Investigation of the Critical Timescales Needed for Digging in Wet and Dry Soil Using a Biomimetic Burrowing Robot [🔗 ]
Isava, M., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2015)

Design of a Biologically-Inspired Underwater Burrowing Robot with On-Board Actuation [🔗 ]
Dorsch, D., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2015)

Biologically Inspired Mechanisms for Burrowing in Undersea Substrates [🔗 ]
Winter V, A.G., PhD Thesis (MIT, 2010)

Press Articles

The science behind a clam digging through sand, on the Washington Post (2017) [🔗 ]

'RoboClam' Engineered to Burrow Like a Mollusc, Wired UK (2014) [🔗 ]

'RoboClam' Could Anchor Submarines, BBC News, Science & Environment (2014) [🔗 ]

'RoboClam' Digging Machine as Fast as Natural Burrowers, Live Science (2014) [🔗 ]

'RoboClam' Mimics Razor Clam's Smooth Digs, Scientific American (2014) [🔗 ]