Experiments in Fluids

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 769–778 | Cite as

Water-walking devices

  • David L. Hu
  • Manu Prakash
  • Brian Chan
  • John W. M. BushEmail author
Research Article


We report recent efforts in the design and construction of water-walking machines inspired by insects and spiders. The fundamental physical constraints on the size, proportion and dynamics of natural water-walkers are enumerated and used as design criteria for analogous mechanical devices. We report devices capable of rowing along the surface, leaping off the surface and climbing menisci by deforming the free surface. The most critical design constraint is that the devices be lightweight and non-wetting. Microscale manufacturing techniques and new man-made materials such as hydrophobic coatings and thermally actuated wires are implemented. Using high-speed cinematography and flow visualization, we compare the functionality and dynamics of our devices with those of their natural counterparts.


Free Surface Elastic Band Leaf Spring Dimensionless Group Natural Counterpart 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



JWMB gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the NSF through Career Grant CTS-0130465; DLH likewise through an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship. MP acknowledge financial support of NSF Grant CCR-0122419.

Supplementary material

Supplementary Video S1: The mechanical rower R1 sculling at thefree surface. The surface de ections that support the device's weight are indicated by the shadows cast beneath the device. Video played at 1/20 real time. Body length, 9 cm. (MOV 30.5 MB) (14.9 mb)
Supplementary Video S2: The mechanical leaper RL leaping horizon-tally. Note that the generation of droplets indicates the dominance of uid inertia over surface tension. Video played at 1/100 real time. Unfurled body length, 1 cm. (MOV 14.8 MB)

Supplementary Video S3: The mechanical meniscus-climber RC. Thebending of the climber generates a de ection of the free surface, as indicated by the enlargement of the shadows cast beneath the device. Video played in real time. Body length, 3.5 cm. (MOV 16.1 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Manu Prakash
    • 3
  • Brian Chan
    • 4
  • John W. M. Bush
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.The Courant InstituteNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Center for Bits and AtomsMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Mechanical EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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