What science learns from speed skaters

What science learns from speed skaters

You can regularly shoot snowboarders over the water. They walk on the water with their long legs, without ever drowning in it. In addition, the insect also achieves impressive speeds! They walk on water at a speed of 2 kilometers per hour, which means that a fast skater covers his body length sixty times in one second. For a human, that means running a hundred meters per second!


To achieve these speeds, the animal uses the potential difference in the water surface. When the front legs move backward, they deform the surface of the water on which they rest. The deformation gives a difference in surface tension and this difference in tension keeps the hind legs in motion.


Chinese scientists from Fudan University in Shanghai have extensively studied speed skaters and their method of movement. Then they built plastic sliders, robots that can move above the water’s surface like real insects. No power supply or motor!

In order to propel on the surface of the water without a motor, the legs of the robot were not allowed to sink into the water. The researchers made the robot’s legs porous and waterproof.


Robots weighing only 68 milligrams can be used, for example, to check the pollution of a pond or lake. Robots are also being considered to help remove plastic pollution from the oceans. All of this needs to be developed further, the researchers said.

For more information about bots: Applied materials and interfaces.

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