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SOMETIMES SCIENCE SUCKS

FORGIVE THIS teaser title for news of engineering a gizmo that mimics a suckerfish and generates a pull-force up to 340 times the weight of the gizmo. Biomimetics, the mimicking of biological phenomena, can be quite astonishing.

Information on this topic is in the September 22, 2017, issue of Science, the weekly magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “This Robotic ‘Remora’ Can Cling to Objects with a Force 340 Times its own Weight,” by Andrew Wright, offers an overview of the research. An abstract of “A Biorobotic Adhesive Disc for Underwater Hitchhiking Inspired by the Remora Suckerfish,” by Yueping Wang et al, gives more details.

The remora has a highly evolved dorsal fin that forms an adhesive disc acting as a sucker. These and other images from Science Robotics, September 20, 2017.


The remoras are a family of ray-finned fish ranging from about 3 in. to 2 1/2 ft. in length. Their forward dorsal fins have evolved into oval discs with slat-like structures that move to create suction gripping the skin of other sea creatures—or even scuba divers—with no harm involved in the hitchhiking.

Researcher Yueping Wang, at the School of Mechanical Engineering and Automation, Beihang University, Beijing, and his colleagues there and at Harvard and Boston College studied the morphology and kinematics of the slender sharksucker, Echeneis naucrates. They then used three-dimensional printing to fabricate a multimaterial biomimetic disc.

Stiffly fabricated spinules combine with surrounding lamellae to generate suction.


Fabricated spinules of carbon fiber mimic the remora’s stiff spines. Soft printed polymers are patterned after the remora’s underlying lamellae (thin layers of bone). Together, they are actuated to generate suction.

Researchers mimic the remora’s suction control through varying lamella pitch.

Wang and colleagues write, “Our biomimetic prototype can attach to different surfaces and generate considerable pull-off force—up to 340 times the weight of the disc prototype. The rigid spinules and soft material overlaying the lamellae (thin layers of bone) engage with the surface when rotated, just like the discs of live remoras.”

“Using our prototype,” the abstract concludes, “we have 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). Our results demonstrate that there is promise for the development of high-performance bioinspired robotic systems that may be used in a number of applications based on an understanding of the adhesive mechanisms used by remoras.”

Who says science doesn’t suck? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

2 comments on “SOMETIMES SCIENCE SUCKS

  1. jlalbrecht64
    October 17, 2017

    A wise business decision. Use millions of years of R&D by someone (mother nature) who won’t take you to court for stealing her idea.

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