Termites - small insects with an appetite for destruction and a bad reputation with home-owners. But Justin Werfel‚ a research scientist at Harvard‚ thinks the insects deserve a bit more respect.
"The termites are actually the greatest architects on Earth. They are millimetre scale insects building things up to 10 metres high."
So impressed was Werfel and colleague Kirstin Petersen‚ that they travelled to Southern Africa to study how millions of the tiny insects‚ working autonomously but following the same set of simple rules‚ are able to build massive mounds out of mud - some tens of thousands of times larger than themselves.
RESEARCH SCIENTIST‚ HARVARD'S WYSS INSTITUTE‚ SAYS:
"If you want to have a house built in three weeks you can certainly get it - hire a human construction crew. If you want something built on Mars. where it would be tricky for a human to work than‚ you know‚ these robots are perfect for you."
Along with designing the perfect robotic builder‚ Werfel and Petersen hope their research will shine a more favourable light on the insect. They hope that In the future‚ if real termites destroy your home‚ their robotic cousins will be able to build it right back up.
Ben Gruber‚ Reuters.