Researchers have created a “RoboSnail,” which can climb walls and stick to overhead surfaces much like its living counterpart. Such a device has potential uses in invasive surgery and oil well drilling, among other applications.

The researchers found that, while digging, the clam’s up-and-down movement accompanied by the opening and closing of its shell turns sand into the consistency of liquid quicksand. This in turn allows the clam to move quickly through the sand. Similar to the human version, the RoboClam vibrates, changing the solid seabed into fluid, allowing a worm-like foot to push down.

Clam-inspired robotic diggers could find use as automatic tethers and lightweight low-cost anchoring devices for small robotic submarines and even large ships and oil platforms.

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