Part of the show Spinal Injuries, and Brain Repair
Famous for breaking down buildings, termites could reveal new ways to build homes in the future. African termites live in very complex mounds, which form a very stable environment for the little bugs. The whole structure can respond to changes in conditions both inside and outside the mound. Now a team of engineers and insect specialists are taking termite design principles and trying to apply them to human buildings. The team are based at Leicester, but will be travelling to Namibia to digitally scan the structure of the mounds and map them in three-dimensional details. Termite mounds have a complex array of tunnels and air channels which maintain air quality, temperature and moisture in Termite Towers. For example, they use special tunnels which capture the wind to ventilate their home. They are also farmers, using a fungus to digest chewed up wood fibre to provide the termites with food. Scientists hope to design human homes based on the termite prototypes that have these kinds of characteristics- meeting all their energy, waste management and other needs on site. Such building might be useful in inhospitable environments like deserts or even on the moon! And if you're itching to see these termites up close and personal, you'll be able to catch up with the termite spotters in a new David Attenborough series, due to be screened in 2006.