Wonderful Engineering

This Microcircuit Can Control Any Cockroach While Its Alive

If a cockroach were running in the kitchen, we would freak out and get the exterminator spray in a minute. However, these cockroaches will soon come to our aid and get us out of the potentially life-threatening experiences. This may sound unbelievable, but two researchers from the University of Connecticut have developed a microcircuit which can turn a cockroach into a cyborg that can obey our commands. Abhishek Dutta, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and his junior undergraduate, Evan Faulkner were the part of the team to build the circuit which can control the insects. They used Madagascar hissing cockroach as a subject for the study.

They created the circuit in a form factor that can be easily placed on top of a cockroach. Wires are connected from the microcircuit to the antennae lobes of the insect. The researchers can control it by giving electric signals to its nodes. The insect perceives the short electrical pulses which are sent to the wires as obstacles. If the signal is sent on the right lobe, the cockroach will start moving away, if it is transmitted on the left lobe the opposite will start happening. By controlling each signal with minor adjustments and variations, the researchers were unable to control the movements in the subject insect.

Previously, such experiments have been conducted which could control the insects. However, this is a compelling case because of the level of technology used in it and the results produced. Dutta said, “The use of insects as platforms for small robots has an incredible number of useful applications from search and rescue to national defense.” The researchers not only went with a microcontroller which only houses a wireless transponder and a controlling mechanism. They also included an additional tech which can reduce the errors and create a way for more streamlined control. The microcircuit included has a nine-axis inertial measurement unit and a temperature sensor.

The movement of the recorder helps the researchers find the orientation of the cockroach and the temperature sensor can help to determine where the insect might go without using any external stimuli since the roaches prefer to walk in warm conditions. The results are giving hope of a future tech that can merge with living beings and can help in various situations as well. The good thing is that no roaches will be hurt or tortured to death in the experiment. The microchip which stays on the back of the insect has a featherweight, and the electric impulses are like the ones that they get when they are out in the wild. The researchers also used Bluetooth transponders to communicate with the circuit. The research and work are not perfect yet, and the researchers are working to refine the technology as much as they can.