Some Scientists are Creating Cyborg Cockroaches that Can be Operated by Remote Control

Cockroaches are annoying pests that no sane person would welcome into their home. They are adept at survival, having outlived dinosaurs, and may one day outlive humans. However, humans attempt to transform these hardy insects into cyborgs or hybrid machines. Recent research has allowed scientists to develop a method for producing cyborg cockroaches, a hybrid of a machine and an insect, that can be controlled remotely. They are equipped with a miniature wireless control module powered by a rechargeable battery connected to a solar cell. Japanese researchers revealed in a new study published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics on Monday, September 5, that they have created a system to remotely control the insect’s legs. Scientists from Japan’s RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science conducted the research.

The solar-powered, cyborg bug system

Cyborg insects, which are partially insects and partially machines, have been developed by scientists to help inspect dangerous areas or keep an eye on the environment. The ability to remotely control cyborg insects for extended periods is necessary for their practical application. This necessitates wireless control of their leg segments, powered by a miniaturized rechargeable battery. Nobody wants a gang of cyborg cockroaches running amok, so keeping the battery charged is crucial. Although it is possible to construct docking stations for battery recharging, the need to return and recharge could interfere with time-sensitive missions. Therefore, the optimal solution is to incorporate an onboard solar cell that can continuously charge the battery.

The team led by Kenjiro Fukuda, RIKEN CPR, conducted experiments with approximately 6-centimeter-long Madagascar cockroaches. They attached the wireless leg-control module and lithium polymer battery to the insect’s thorax using a backpack designed to resemble a cockroach’s body. The backpack was 3D printed with an elastic polymer and perfectly conformed to the cockroach’s curved surface, allowing the rigid electronic device to be mounted on the thorax for over a month. The 0.004 mm-thick organic solar cell module was mounted on the abdomen’s dorsal surface.

Researchers discovered that the abdomen changes shape and portions of the exoskeleton overlap after examining natural cockroach movement. To accommodate this, adhesive and non-adhesive sections were interleaved on the films, allowing them to bend while remaining attached. The new cockroach cyborgs were tested after these parts, along with wires that stimulate the leg segments, were incorporated into the insects. The battery was charged for 30 minutes with simulated sunlight, and animals were made to turn left and right using a wireless remote.

In contrast to previous experiments, the most recent backpack features an ultrathin and flexible solar cell that does not impede the cockroach’s movement. And the solar cell ensures sufficient battery life and that a cyborg insect does not suddenly become uncontrollable. However, this begs the question, what purpose do these cyborg cockroaches serve? According to scientists, cyborg cockroaches can be used for urban search and rescue operations after a natural disaster because they can enter spaces inaccessible to humans. If it succeeds, it can be put to use in the fields of surveillance and espionage.

Researchers also created the crab-shaped remote-controlled robot, the smallest of its kind in the world, a few weeks ago

A group of North-western University researchers and engineers created the most miniature remote-controlled robot resembling a crab. The engineers detailed their project in the journal Science Robotics by publishing their work. Now, to construct the miniature crab-robot, the engineers utilized a shape-memory alloy material with a unique property. The ability of the material to return to its original shape when heated was used by the researcher to not only move the robot but also control its direction.

The team utilized a scanning laser beam to heat different areas of the robot’s body remotely. As the robot cooled, a thin layer of glass structure restored the damaged component to its original shape. Engineers then utilized this entire cycle for the crab-shaped robot to walk. In addition, by manipulating the scanning laser beams’ directions, they could control the robot’s movement in various directions.

The crab-robot, which measures only about 0.5 mm across, is not limited to locomotion on two legs. It can bend, twist, crawl, turn, and even jump, which is quite remarkable. The team has constructed similar, millimeter-sized robots in the shape of other small insects, such as crickets, beetles, and inchworms, in addition to a robot shaped like a crab.

It’s important to remember that research into these robots is ongoing and that their ultimate applications have yet to be determined.

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