TechnologyJapan uses equipment-equipped cockroaches to search for disaster survivors

Japan uses equipment-equipped cockroaches to search for disaster survivors

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If an earthquake occurs in the not-too-distant future and survivors are left buried under tons of rubble, the first responders to find it could be swarms of cockroaches.

This is a potential use of a recent innovation by Japanese researchers who were able to attach solar cells and electronic ‘backpacks’ to insects and control their movements by remote control.

Kenjiro Fukuda and his team at Japanese research giant Riken’s thin device lab have developed a flexible film of solar cells that is four microns thick – about a quarter the width of a human hair – and can fit inside the stomach of humans. .

The film allows the cockroach to move freely, while the solar cell generates enough energy to process it and send it to the insect’s rear sensory organs.

The work builds on previous pest control experiments at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and may one day produce hybrid cyborgs, meaning they combine their natural biological makeup with advanced equipment implanted in their bodies and can enter dangerous areas with safety.

“The batteries inside the little robots run out quickly, so the search time is reduced,” said Fukuda. “The main advantage (of the cyborg) is that when it comes to insect movement, the insect moves by itself. The electricity needed is not much.”

Fukuda and his team chose Madagascar crickets for testing because they are big enough to carry equipment and don’t have wings to get in the way. Even when the backpack and film are attached to the back, insects can overcome small obstacles or change position if they turn around.

This research still has a long way to go. In a recent demonstration, Riken researcher Yujiro Kaki used a specialized computer and Bluetooth wireless technology to tell a cyborg cockroach to turn left, causing it to dart in that direction. But when the “turn right” signal was given, the insect moved in circles.

The next challenge is to make the components smaller so that the insects can move more easily and allow the installation of sensors and cameras. The backpack and film can be removed, allowing the cockroaches to come back to life in the lab. The insects mature in 4 months and are known to live up to five years in captivity.

In addition to disaster rescue bugs, Fukuda sees widespread use of solar cell film, which consists of microscopic layers of plastic, silver, and gold. The film can be embedded in clothing or skin tags for use in monitoring vital signs. On a sunny day, he said, a screen covered in the material could generate enough electricity to charge a cell phone.

Source: EuroNews

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