Fire Ants to inspire self healing and hydrophobic materials.

Fire Ants to inspire self healing and hydrophobic materials.


fire ants

Advanced materials comprise a broad collection of innovative sources ready to solve our most desirable ideas upon design and building performance. Under the list, we can find bio-materials or biomimetic materials which have the capacity of understanding nature by imitating its performance, structure or form.
In terms of performance, the microscope aims at self-healers, an important task for self-sustainable projects where the preoccupation of concrete’s natural cracks and human intervention to repair it, has acquired relevance in order to relieve owners from high maintenance costs and longer lasting finishes.

Studies have revealed that certain organisms have self-healing capabilities and outstanding performance and it is the example of the fiercely strong fire ants. Reminiscent of their common name, they act as fire to skin, leaving harsh bites and consequently becoming a dangerous colony of insects humans wish to disappear; but not to scientists interested in the physics of fluids.
Scientists have discovered the marvels of these colonies after proving their strength as a mass, becoming water repellent, strength in buoyancy, flexibility as a mass and responsiveness as single organisms. It has been said they have potential to be mimicked with the potential of designing better structures similar to their singular strength and flexible as their plural mass.

fire ants

Fire ants tests, provided by www.pnas.org
A) Single ant is moderately hydrophobic, B) Increased hydrophobia when grouped in a raft, C) Buoyancy and Flexibility D) Ant with air bubble allowing buoyancy, E) Air bubble trapped on Ant raft.

Fire ants are very much similar to water striders, in that their capacity for water buoyancy and transportation through water; although ants can be able to create bridges in order to transport food from one place to the other, no matter how high the colony resides, it is perfect example for a biomimicry transportation challenge.

Fire ants work
As witnessed in the next video, these ants are able to create bridges composed of their own bodies and when this bridge breaks, they can be able to repair it as if they were magnetized. Also testings show their responsive flexibility when they create a mass of bodies.

Upon pressed action towards a raft of fire ants, researchers at Georgia Tech, have discovered that their bodies are capable of storing energy  and simultaneously dissipate it as if they could turn from solid into liquid, deducting that their strength can be perceived as a solution for the designs of bridges and the production of smart materials with self healers and water repellency.

Anatomically speaking, ants have an exoskeleton as any other insect, an external shell providing structure to its internal muscles which defines its shape; so to speak, it is the invert of a human skeleton and muscle configuration. Evidently the containments and graphic form of this section will be very interesting to see, it may be the key to understanding the morphology and structure of what someday could be the future of high technology of hydrophobic and self healing materials.

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.