Ants are true giants when it comes down to carrying heavy loads. In laboratory tests, formica polyctena, a species of red wood ant, for example, are carrying almost forty times their own weight. However, measuring the ground reaction forces exerted by those lightweights with super-powers represents a major challenge. The forces exerted by ants in motion are almost impossible to measure using existing methods. Insights into insect locomotion provide valuable approaches for future applications in the field of safe handling of loads. For this reason, Lars Reinhardt and Prof. Dr. Reinhard Blickhan from the University of Jena, Germany, sought to find a remedy. They developed a robust miniature force measurement platform enabling forces in the micronewton range to be reliably measured - in all three relevant directions of motion. HBM made an important contribution to this: providing the MGCplus amplifier system and catman Easy test and measurement software.
Research in the field of insect locomotion provides important fundamentals for assessing mechanics, sensory physiology and motor skills. Real-life applications can be implemented based on these findings, for example in bionics and robotics. These include transportation and carrying devices with outstanding all-terrain characteristics imitating the stable gait of ants on six legs. However, reliable results from basic research are required for successfully imitating Mother Nature.
Scientists from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena have taken a big step toward that goal. Lars Reinhardt and Prof. Dr. Reinhard Blickhan have developed a new 3D miniature force measurement platform for measuring ultra-small forces. It enables reliable measurement of ant locomotion in all three relevant directions of motion and subsequent analysis. The platform developed within the framework of a project funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), for the first time, allows insights into the dynamics of locomotion on legs in this ultra-miniature range.