Log In

Enter your username and password below

Termites Now Used to Build Homes, Not Destroy Them


The real estate boom of the future might be led by new robots based on termites. Seriously.

Two engineers at Harvard have been studying how these insects build in Southern Africa. And they hope to use their observations to build a team of robots that mimic the insects’ behavior so that we can one day use them to construct buildings.

Why termites? Because engineer, Justin Werfel, calls them “the greatest architects on earth.” And the other engineer on the project, Kirstin Petersen, adds, “Going to Africa and watching them, I guess you see them manipulate this material, and the engineer in me is just amazed at how they are actually able to pack it into these super solid really useful structures.”

Besides being able to tackle challenging building projects here on Earth, the team believes that the robotic construction workers could also be used to piece together structures where humans can’t. Like space.

As Werfel says, “If we want maintenance being done on the International Space Station… if we want a moon base or a Mars colony… it may be much cheaper and more effective to send a bunch of robots to do the building rather than to send human astronauts as a first stage.”