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How Much Can Ants Lift?

Ants are tiny creatures, weighing less than a gram. But they can lift massive amounts of weight and the creates the question, how much can ants lift? The answer? Up to 5,000 times their own weight! And that’s not all – ants also have an incredible grip strength, and can carry objects heavier than themselves without dropping them.

Researches at Ohio State University were performing a test on the neck joint of the common ant. After the results came in, Carlos Castro, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University said. “Ants are impressive mechanical systems—astounding. Before we started, we made a somewhat conservative estimate that they might withstand 1,000 times their weight, and it turned out to be much more.”

Carolos and his fellow engineers were studying whether similar joints might enable future robots to mimic the ants’ ability on earth and in space. Other researchers have long observed ants in the field and guessed that they could hoist a hundred times their body weight or more, judging by the payload of leaves or prey that they carried. Castro took those theories one step further and found that a 100 times their weight was simply too easy for ants.

Why Can Ants Life So Much?

When you look at an ants incredible strength the key is in the weight to strength ratio. For example, If you shrunk a human down to 1/100 their normal size, they would be much weaker than before. A person’s muscle strength is proportional to its cross-sectional area (length squared), while weight is proportional to volume (length cubed). So when this happens, the muscles of a person will have only 10% as much power as before, but their weight will be 1000 times less than it originally was.

This creates the illusion that ants have super-strength built into the exoskeletons but in reality it has everything to do with the portions of their muscle to their weight.

The Ant's Exoskeleton Also Plays a Role But Not How You Think

It is often believed that an ant’s exoskeletons was the key to their incredible ability to lift heavy objects. But it turns out that the exoskeleton helps, but it isn’t the core reason. Having their skeleton on the outside of their body, instead of the inside provides some great benefits when it comes to weight distribution. The exoskeleton can redirect the weight and transfer it through the body to the ground instead of having the ant absorb the pressure.

However, if you were to scale the ant up to human size, the exoskeleton would become too heavy and the ant wouldn’t be able to move. In short, the key behind the ant’s incredible strength is the perfect combination of weight, strength, ratio, and body mechanics.

Researchers will continue to build prototypes that help us scale the ant’s strength, giving service workers added protection and strength. But it seems that the key to success will be with pressurized mechanics and extra light ‘exoskeleton’ material that keeps the weight down.