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Scientists study biomechanics behind amazing ant strength
Date:5/20/2014

A recent study into the biomechanics of the necks of ants a common insect that can amazingly lift objects many times heavier than its own body might unlock one of nature's little mysteries and, quite possibly, open the door to advancements in robotic engineering.

A small group of engineers at The Ohio State University combined laboratory testing and computational modeling conducted at the Ohio Supercomputer Center to determine the relationship between the mechanical function, structural design and material properties of the Allegheny mound ant (Formica exsectoides). Their results were recently published in an article, "The exoskeletal structure and tensile loading behavior of an ant neck joint," in the Journal of Biomechanics.

The study focused on the ant's neck the single joint of soft tissue that bridges the stiff exoskeleton of the ant's head and thorax. When an ant carries food or any other object, the neck joint supports the full weight of the load.

"Loads are lifted with the mouthparts, transferred through the neck joint to the thorax, and distributed over six legs and tarsi that anchor to the supporting surface," explained Carlos Castro, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State. "While previous research has explored attachment mechanisms of the tarsi (feet), little is known about the relation between the mechanical function and the structural design and material properties of the ant."

To better understand the strengths and upper limits of the ant's neck, the researchers reverse-engineered the biomechanics by developing 3-D models of the of the ant's internal and external anatomy. The models were created by importing X-ray cross-section images (microCT) of ant specimens into a modeling program (ScanIPFE) that assembled the segments and converted them into a mesh frame model of more than 6.5 million elements.

The model then was loaded into a finite element ana
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Contact: Jamie Abel
jabel@oh-tech.org
614-292-6495
Ohio Supercomputer Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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