#581: Ant-entropy

Leafcutter ants (Atta) are adept at managing the division of labour between the 8M or so individuals undertaking different functions within a nest.

Garbage collection is done by several specialist types who identify anything foreign within a nest and transport it to an external garbage heap. No-one coordinates this work but the ants behave according to simple rules which govern their interactions with each other and their environment.

Today’s invention is to exploit this behaviour by applying it to the separation of mixtures of leaf-like cellulose and inorganic particles (eg glass fibres). This would allow vehicles, and other engineered systems, to be largely constructed from fibre-reinforced cellulose. Parking a scrap vehicle on a nest would result in it being gradually broken into two separate sets of material particles, allowing a new car to be formed from these recycled elements.

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