A remotely controlled Marangoni surfer

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Inspired by creatures that have naturally mastered locomotion on the air-water interface, we developed and built a self-powered, remotely controlled surfing robot capable of traversing this boundary by harnessing surface tension modification for both propulsion and steering through a controlled release of isopropyl alcohol. In this process, we devised and implemented novel release valve and steering mechanisms culminating in a surfer with distinct capabilities. Our robot measures about 110 mm in length and can travel as fast as 0.8 body length per second. Interestingly, we found that the linear speed of the robot follows a 1/3 power law with the release rate of the propellant. Additional maneuverability tests also revealed that the robot is able to withstand 20 mm sin centripetal acceleration while turning. Here, we thoroughly discuss the design, development, performance, overall capabilities, and ultimate limitations of our robotic surfer.

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Bioinspiration & biomimetics