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With their amazing necks, ants don't need 'high hopes' to do heavy lifting
Date:2/10/2014

hen it's carrying a load, we want to understand how it moves. How does it hold its head? What changes when the ant carries loads in different directions?"

One day, this research could lead to micro-sized robots that combine soft and hard parts, as the ant's body does. Much work in robotics today involves assembling small, autonomous devices that can work together.

But a difficult problem will emerge if the researchers try to create large robots based on the same design, Castro explained.

Ants are super-strong on a small scale because their bodies are so light. Inside their hard exoskeletons, their muscles don't have to provide much support, so they are free to apply all their strength to lifting other objects. Humans, in contrast, carry comparatively heavy loads due to our body weight. With our muscles supporting our body weight, we don't have as much strength left over to lift other objects.

On a human-sized scale, though, ants are overcome by basic physics. Their weight increases with their overall volume (dimensions cubed), while the strength of their muscles only increases with surface area (dimensions squared). So a human-sized ant, were it to exist outside of a horror movie, would likely not be so successful in carrying extreme loads at a human scale.

A large robot based on that design might be able to carry and tow cargo in microgravity, though, so it's possible that we may one day employ giant robot ants in space, "or, at least, something inspired by ants," Castro said.

Meanwhile, the engineers will study the ant's muscles closelyperhaps using magnetic resonance imaging. Computer simulations will also help answer the question of how to scale up similar structures.

Blaine Lilly, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, began this work with former student Vienny Nguyen. Nguyen earned her master's degree with this project, and is now a robotics engineer at Johnson Space Center, w
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Contact: Pam Frost Gorder
gorder.1@osu.edu
614-292-9475
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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