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Collective clog control: Optimizing traffic flow in confined biological and robophysical excavation

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Science  17 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6403, pp. 672-677
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan3891

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When fewer workers are more efficient

A narrow passageway can easily become clogged or jammed if too much traffic tries to enter at once or there is competition between the flow of traffic in each direction. Aguilar et al. studied the collective excavation observed when ants build their nests. Because of the unequal workload distribution, the optimal excavation rate is achieved when a part of the ant collective is inactive. Numerical simulations and the behavior of robotic ants mimic the behavior of the colony.

Science, this issue p. 672