Nature is a construction and architecture expert. The network of roots that supports plants, the design of a honeycomb, and the complexities of a beehive are all examples of how nature has mastered the art of building.
In the construction world, we continually gain inspiration by the plants and animals around us. In this article, we will be discussion some of the newest innovations inspired by termites and bees.
Creating New Architected Materials by Studying Termites
Scientists at Caltech have been studying how termites build their nests to create a computer simulation that mimics termite behavior to produce new materials that could be used in construction.
“We thought that by understanding how a termite contributes to the nest’s fabrication, we could define simple rules for designing architected materials with unique mechanical properties,” the lead on the study, Chiara Daraio told Science Daily.
Termites are capable of building structures as large as a house in just one day. They also have the ability to construct more elaborate structures, such as mounds with domed roofs, towers, bridges and even roads.
Using the termites as inspiration, the team at Caltech has developed an algorithm, called the “virtual growth program”, to help make new architected materials – like graphene.
Prior to this study, the development of these architected materials was focused on ordered structures, which limited the use and function of the materials created.
Termites’ mounds are asymmetrical structures. They create their asymmetrical mounds by not having an overall blueprint in mind while they are working. They work by local rules only. For example, as the termite is building using grains of sand, they use rules developed by other termites to fit the grains of sands together. They are not thinking about the overall structure – just how individual grains of sand fit together.
“Our goal is to generate disordered geometries with properties defined by the combinatory space of some essential shapes, like a straight line, a cross, or an ‘L’ shape,” Daraio told Science Daily. “These geometries can then be 3-D printed with a variety of different constitutive materials depending on applications’ requirements.”
Bee-Based Drones for Building and Repairing Structures
New technology developed by the Imperial College London’s Department of Aeronautics and Empa’s Materials and Technology Center of Robotics will use bees and wasps as a model for the development of swarms of 3D printing drones.
The expert team developing the drones are modeling them after the way that bees and wasps building their nests. These drones will not only be able to fly, but they will have different tools attached to their frames.
Coined the Aerial Additive Manufacturing (Aerial-AM) system, the “swarm” is made up of BuilDrones and ScanDrones. BuilDrones are like the worker bees and deposit the material where it needs to go. ScanDrones are constantly monitoring the BuilDrones and telling them what to do next.
The team tested the group of drones using four different cement mixtures. The drones were able to meet the build specifications with an accuracy of five millimeters.
The researchers hope that this technology can be used in difficult to reach areas, like tall buildings, or in dangerous situations like post-disaster relief construction.