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Morphology and Mechanical Properties of Vibratory Organs in the Leaf-cutting Ant (Atta cephalotes)

Abstract

The ultrasonic scalpel has a number of excellent properties; however, its use in in vivo surgery is limited since the scalpel is not flexible enough. Changing the mechanism of ultrasonic vibration can allow the ultrasonic scalpel to bend. This paper reveals the mechanism of vibration generation of leaf-cutting ants, which is based on the microstructural and mechanical properties of special organs that produce the vibrations. Microstructural characteristics of cross-sections of the vibratory organ of Atta cephalotes were observed using scanning electron microscopy. It was found that the scraper perfectly matches the file plate dorsoventrally; however, the file teeth cannot catch the scraper. An exploration of the kinematics of the file-scraper device was subsequently carried out to reveal a face-to-face contact mode, facilitating a gentler engagement process. For the first time, the mechanism of vibration generation of leaf-cutting ants was investigated using a laser micrometer and high-speed camera. Results reveal the file-scraper device significantly amplifies the input frequency by 125 times, and magnification depends mainly on the tooth spacing and speed of engagement. Finally, nanoindentation tests were performed on file and scraper samples. The results show that they have similar mechanical properties, which greatly reduces friction and wear. This paper may provide theoretical guidance for the development of bionic vibration generators.

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Acknowledgment

The authors would like to thank the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 51475029 and 51475031).

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Correspondence to Xinggang Jiang.

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Yao, G., Feng, L., Zhang, D. et al. Morphology and Mechanical Properties of Vibratory Organs in the Leaf-cutting Ant (Atta cephalotes). J Bionic Eng 15, 722–730 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42235-018-0060-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42235-018-0060-6

Keywords

  • leaf-cutting ant
  • vibration mechanism
  • file-scraper device
  • nano-indentation