OSU’s Castro leverages OSC systems to study 3-D model of ant anatomy
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 (ScanIPþFE) 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 analysis program (Abaqus), an application that creates accurate simulations of complex geometries and forces, and the data was processed on the powerful Oakley Cluster, an array of 8,300 processor cores (Intel Xeon) at the Ohio Supercomputer Center.
The simulations were run in conjunction with lab experiments that used a centrifuge to measure changes in the ants’ anatomies under a range of calculated loads. The experiments revealed that the neck joints could withstand loads of about 5,000 times the ant’s body weight, and that the ant’s neck-joint structure produced the highest strength when its head was aligned straight, as opposed to turned to either side.
“Our results accurately pinpoint the stress concentration that leads to neck failure and identify the soft-to-hard material interface at the neck-to-head transition as the location of failure,” said Castro. “The design and structure of this interface is critical for the performance of the neck joint. The unique interface between hard and soft materials likely strengthens the adhesion and may be a key structural design feature that enables the large load capacity of the neck joint.”
The simulations confirmed the joint’s directional strength and, consistent with the experimental results, indicated that the critical point for failure of the neck joint is at the neck-to-head transition, where soft membrane meets the hard exoskeleton.
“The neck joint [of the ant] is a complex and highly integrated mechanical system. Efforts to understand the structure-function relationship in this system will contribute to the understanding of the design paradigms for optimized exoskeleton mechanisms,” said former Ohio State student Vienny N. Nguyen in her 2012 master’s thesis on this research. Nguyen, now a robotics engineer at Johnson Space Center, earlier worked on the project under the supervision of Blaine Lilly, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State. Nguyen and Lilly are co-authors with Castro on the journal paper.
“As we look to the future of human-assistive devices and ultra-light robotics,” she said, “the development of 3-dimensional models for visual analysis and loading and kinematic simulation will also serve as tools for evaluating and comparing the functional morphology of multiple species and types of joints.”
The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), a member of the Ohio Technology Consortium of the Ohio Board of Regents, addresses the rising computational demands of academic and industrial research communities by providing a robust shared infrastructure and proven expertise in advanced modeling, simulation and analysis. OSC empowers scientists with the vital resources essential to make extraordinary discoveries and innovations, partners with businesses and industry to leverage computational science as a competitive force in the global knowledge economy, and leads efforts to equip the workforce with the key technology skills required to secure 21st century jobs. For more, visit www.osc.edu.
The Institute for Materials Research (IMR) is the gateway to materials-allied research at The Ohio State University. IMR is a campus-wide, multidisciplinary institute that works with OSU colleges and departments to augment and synergistically advance their goals. IMR facilitates, promotes and coordinates research activities and infrastructure related to the science and engineering of materials throughout The Ohio State University. For more, visit: imr.osu.edu.
Jamie Abel | Eurek Alert!
New method opens crystal clear views of biomolecules
11.02.2016 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
Scientists from MIPT gain insights into 'forbidden' chemistry
11.02.2016 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.
The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...
The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.
Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...
Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.
The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
12.02.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Event News
02.02.2016 | Event News
12.02.2016 | Materials Sciences
12.02.2016 | Materials Sciences
12.02.2016 | Materials Sciences