Remora-Inspired Robot Can Hitchhike on Sharks


Remora fish can attach to various marine animals using a highly modified dorsal fin that forms an adhesive disc, which enables hitchhiking on fast-swimming hosts. Researchers from Beihang University in China  led an international team in the design of a multi-material, biomimetic remora disc. They used multi-material 3D printing techniques to make the main disc structure. To incorporate structures that mimic the functionality of the remora lamellae (membrane), they fabricated carbon fiber 'spinules' using laser machining techniques and attached them to soft actuator –controlled lamellae. The biomimetic prototype can attach to different surfaces and generate impressive pull-off force - up to 340 times the weight of the disc prototype. The rigid spinules and soft material overlaying the lamellae engage with the surface when rotated, just like the discs of live remoras. Using the prototype, the research team designed an underwater robot capable of strong adhesion and hitchhiking on a variety of surfaces - including smooth, rough, and compliant surfaces, as well as shark skin.