An international team of researchers has engineered a system for creating remote-controlled cyborg cockroaches, equipped with a tiny wireless control module to help inspect hazardous areas or monitor the environment.
According to a paper published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics, the module is powered by a rechargeable battery attached to a solar cell which ensures the continuous flow of energy through the battery.
“The team experimented with Madagascar cockroaches, which are approximately 6 cm long. They attached the wireless leg-control module and lithium polymer battery to the top of the insect on the thorax using a specially designed backpack, which was modelled after the body of a model cockroach,” said LeKenjiro Fukuda, lead researcher at RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR).
Despite the mechanical devices, the ultrathin electronics and flexible materials allow the insects to move freely, making cyborg insects a practical reality.
“Considering the deformation of the thorax and abdomen during basic locomotion, a hybrid electronic system of rigid and flexible elements in the thorax and ultrasoft devices in the abdomen appears to be an effective design for cyborg cockroaches,” said Fukuda.
Since abdominal deformation is not unique to cockroaches, “our strategy can be adapted to other insects like beetles, or perhaps even flying insects like cicadas in the future,” he added.
Researchers have been attempting to design cyborg insects — part insect, part machine — to help inspect hazardous areas or monitor the environment.
However, for the use of cyborg insects to be practical, the inclusion of an on-board solar cell is the best solution so far.