What has two antennae and receives radio signals? A cockroach, of course.
Researchers from the iBionicS lab at North Carolina State University have created a remote-control system to stimulate and steer cockroaches, they reported at the 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society last month. In this system, described in their paper for the conference, they equip a Madagascar hissing cockroach with an electrical circuit board with wires connecting to the tips of the cockroach’s antennae. They can then use a a joystick to send radio signals to the antennae in order to make the roach feel as though it has run into something and needs to turn away. A zap to the right antenna and the roach turns left; a zap to the left and it turns right.
One of the snails in question.
Just a few weeks ago we wrote about scientists who’d manage to draw power from the body fluids of cockroaches. Now, another team has reported achieving a similar feat with snails: a tiny biofuel cell implanted in the creatures draws glucose and oxygen from their hemolymph (the snail equivalent of blood) to generate power. And a yet-to-be-released study, Nature News reports, will feature beetles as the carriers of these minute power cells. All of this tiny cyborg excitement can be traced back to a 2003 paper, in which scientists generated power from a grape. Importantly, all of these biological generators—except, presumably, the grape—survived and thrived after their operations.
Now, we’re not talking about enough power here to run your cell phone or electric car. The snail cyborg can only produce about 0.16 microwatts of continuous power, though it can rise to more than 7 microwatts for short bursts (your average lightbulb consumes 60 watts). But if developed further, such biological generation could eventually be enough for the purposes of the military, which is interested in tiny spies that can crawl into nooks and crannies of buildings or through rubble, for instance, and would only need to generate enough energy to send signals back to their base. It’s interesting to note that this is presumably the kind of power generation referenced in The Matrix, when Morpheus explains that humans are grown in vats so that power can be generated from their bodies. But not to worry: the scientists’ next target isn’t human. They’re now aiming for a cyborg lobster.
Image courtesy of JACS