An international team of scientists has developed cyborg cockroaches with electronics wired to their nervous systems that enable them to be controlled remotely.
The researchers fitted wireless control modules to the backs of Madagascar cockroaches, which can grow up to 2.4 inches long. They are powered by rechargeable batteries.
The scientists stimulated each of the cockroaches’ cerci, which are appendages that act like sensory nerves, via their tiny backpacks. They were able to tell them where to go from a distance. This technological innovation can one day be harnessed to help during search and rescue missions or help monitor the environment.
While these aren’t the first cyborg cockroaches, the team writes in a new paper published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics that these new ones have several innovations that provided them control for longer periods of time.
Essentially, a tiny and extremely thin solar cell also made sure that the battery stays charged, allowing the researchers to remote control the cockroaches for longer 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.
However, it is a long while before they will be ready for use in missions.
“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.”