Makeshift Ant Rafts Inspire Futuristic Flood Barriers

floodAnts form large groups, creating a living ark to survive during excessive rainfall and flooding. “Researchers have determined that in the event of flooding, ants put their infants at the bottom of ‘ant rafts’ that they build as a community,” Auto World News reports. “The rafts have a specific structure that maximizes their buoyancy and increases their chances of survival.” Queen ants, of course, typically secure the center of the makeshift rafts.

Scientists add that placing the youngest ants at the bottom may not be as sinister as it sounds. Young ants may also be the most buoyant, explaining the ants’ order. The ants create the rafts by arranging themselves in mesh-like layers, with all of the ants’ legs interconnected. According to Nature World News, the ants band “together using an adhesive force measured to be over 400 times each ant’s body weight. The structure is also very flexible, allowing the ant-raft to withstand the ebb and flow of flood-water currents.”

Although the feat is undoubtedly impressive, some may argue the information is unlikely to benefit the average American. That is not necessarily true. With time, studying these ant arks may become very relevant. Scientists and engineers are already exploring the possibilities of creating robotic structures to mimic ants by creating a similarly effective and strong barrier against floods with relatively little notice.

“Current makeshift barriers like sandbags require a large amount of manpower to organize and create these structures – generally there is only about 24-48 hours of notice when storms are coming. If we could minimize materials and time required to organize flood barriers we could save large amounts of money as well as be more effective in protecting communities against flooding” says Kenneth Fraine, P.E at Drainage & Erosion 

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