The Atlantic razor clam burrows underground with effectiveness and efficiency by coordinating shape changings of its shell and foot. Inspired by the burrowing strategy of razor clams, this research is dedicated to developing a self-burrowing technology for active underground explorations by investigating the burrowing mechanism of razor clams from the perspective of soil mechanics. In this study, the razor clam was observed to burrow out of sands simply by extending and contracting its foot periodically. This upward burrowing gait is much simpler than its downward burrowing gait, which also involves opening/closing of the shell and dilation of the foot. The upward burrowing gait inspired the design of a self-burrowing-out soft robot, which drives itself out of sands naturally by extension and contraction through pneumatic inflation and deflation. A simplified analytical model was then proposed and explained the upward burrowing behavior of the robot and razor clams as the asymmetric nature of soil resistances applied on both ends due to the intrinsic stress gradient of sand deposits. To burrow downward, additional symmetry-breaking features are needed for the robot to increase the resistance in the upward burrowing direction and to decrease the resistance in the downward burrowing direction. A potential approach is by incorporating friction anisotropy, which was then experimentally demonstrated to affect the upward burrowing of the soft robot. The downward burrowing gait of razor clams provides another inspiration. By exploring the analogies between the downward burrowing gait and in-situ soil characterization methods, a clam-inspired shape-changing penetrator was designed and penetrated dry granular materials both numerically and experimentally. Results demonstrated that the shell opening not only contributes to forming a penetration anchor by compressing the surrounding particles, but also reduces the foot penetration resistance temporally by creating a stress arch above the foot; the shell closing facilitates the downward burrowing by reducing the friction resistance to the subsequent shell retraction. Findings from this research shed lights on the future design of a clam-inspired self-burrowing robot.
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