Scientists Wire Chip to Cockroaches’ Nervous System, Allow Them to Be Remote Controlled
Rise of the cyborg cockroaches.
An international team of scientists has created cyborg cockroaches, with electronics wired to their nervous systems that allow them to be remote controlled.
The researchers fitted wireless control modules powered by rechargeable batteries to the backs of Madagascar cockroaches, which can grow up to 2.4 inches long.
By stimulating each of the cockroaches’ cerci, which are appendages that act like sensory nerves, via their tiny backpacks, the scientists were able to tell them where to go from a distance — a wild showcase of cutting-edge tech that they say could one day be harnessed to aid during search and rescue missions or help monitor the environment.
While these aren’t aren’t the first cyborg cockroaches, the team write in a new paper published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics that these new ones have a number of innovations that allowed them to assume control for longer periods of time.
Specifically, a tiny and extremely thin solar cell also ensured that the battery stays charged, allowing the researchers to remote control the cockroaches for extended periods of time.
“The body-mounted ultrathin organic solar cell module achieves a power output of 17.2 microwatts, which is more than 50 times larger than the power output of current state-of-the-art energy harvesting devices on living insects,” lead author Kenjiro Fukuda, a senior research scientist at Riken University, said in a statement.
But the cockroaches aren’t being dispatched during search and rescue missions any time soon.
“The current system only has a wireless locomotion control system, so it’s not enough to prepare an application such as urban rescue,” Fukuda told CNET. “By integrating other required devices such as sensors and cameras, we can use our cyborg insects for such purposes.”
According to the researcher, the same technology could be applied to beetles and cicadas as well.
It’s a fun and futuristic vision: an army of remotely controlled cyborg insects that can infiltrate hard to reach locations or monitor crops.
But scientists will have to advance the tech carefully — nobody wants to risk a cyborg cockroach uprising.
More on cyborg insects: Tiny Cyborg Drone Navigates Using Surgically Removed Moth Antenna