Ants know the science of making long, strong and long lasting tunnels!
California: Ants make colonies several meters deep in soft soil with a three-dimensional structure. Modern research has now shown that ants are subconsciously aware of the physics associated with it.
Although a colony of millions of ants is made of soft soil, a colony can last for more than ten years due to its structure. It doesn’t use any special materials or machines to build it, but it is a sustainable home for millions of ants.
Jose Andrade, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, and his colleagues have discovered the secrets of ants’ architecture with the help of advanced technology such as computer simulation and 3D X-rays. Knowing this, we can build labor robots and build the best structures ourselves.
Professor Howse made a small colony of ants out of 500 ml of soil and then allowed ants of the Western Harvester breed to build them. The whole process was carefully monitored and 3D X-rays were taken every ten minutes for 20 consecutive hours.
Ants made intricate tunnels and paths like mazes. A computer program was then run to understand the physical forces that make up the tunnels. Interestingly, the size, shape and style of each particle of clay were arranged in such a way that the strength of each particle could be determined. These forces include gravity, friction, and the adhesion of soil to moisture.
Research has shown that as ants dig tunnels, the forces inside the soil seem to force their way around the center of the tunnel. Inside, small arches are formed that are thicker than the tunnel itself. The advantage of this is that it helps to bear the load of dust particles and it is easier for ants to dig tunnels as it reduces the risk of tunnels settling or becoming caves in them. The inner arches strengthen the colony from the inside out and they last for a long time.
According to Professor Hawza, in the millions of years of evolutionary journey, ants have learned the simple method of colonization, but it is based on the principles of science and physics. Surprisingly, ants make tunnels and place them on a sloping surface that can be up to 40 degrees. But even more strange is that when ants make arches, they carefully remove loose sand or mud and take care of its direction so that the upper roof of the arch does not collapse.
“It’s an amazing process because the techniques used to build the colony are based on the same principles of physics,” said Dr. Hawza.
Experts hope that if this behavioral model can be adapted to a computer algorithm to create automated digging robots that will be able to help us not only on Earth but also on other planets.