Researchers Harnessing the Power of Cyborg Cockroaches
By McKinley Noble
Cockroaches are quite the unique bug. Most can survive just about anything that would kill several other insects, like food depravation, being submerged in water, and harmful amounts of radiation. But according to the Huffington Post, scientists at Case Western Reserve University think that cockroaches can also be used as a source of energy.
Outfitting insects with electronic sensors has a variety of unique scientific, technological, and military applications. However, the most common problem with any advanced “robobug” or “cyborg insect” is power — many batteries small enough to fit on the bugs themselves simply can’t keep the advanced gadgetry running. That’s why the cockroach’s body chemistry may come in handy — with biofuel technology, food that a cockroach eats could be converted into natural electricity, which in turn makes the otherwise average insect into a half-bug, half-machine hybrid.
The technique works by introducing a series of enzymes to break down complex molecules that the cockroach produces when it eats, and oxidizing the resulting sugars to release electrons; these are then run through a fuel cell to create electricity.
In a way, it’s more advanced than current model of robobugs, as some sensors require their carriers to be in motion or near a light source in order to generate power. With miniature sensors running off a cockroach’s food intake, the bug can be controlled in stints, rather than a one-shot operation. And considering how long those things can stand harsh conditions, they could make an even better tool for scouting out environmentally hazardous areas.
So, next time you see a cockroach in a curiously clean place, try to refrain from killing it lest you accidentally smash some expensive cyborg insect espionage research.
McKinley Noble is a former GamePro staff editor, current technology nerd and eternal mixed martial arts enthusiast. He also likes Japanese sports dramas and soap operas. Follow him on Twitter or just Google his name.