Madagascar hissing cockroaches aren’t something pleasant to see, but if you’re trapped under a collapsed building, then cockroach biobots might help come to your rescue. The researchers state that the trick to cockroach biobots is to fire wireless signals at the roach’s antennae and other sensory organs to guide it towards a desired location.
The scientists presented their findings at last month’s 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society in San Diego, California.
Alper Bozkurt, an engineer, working with his doctoral student Tahmid Latif, has been able to communicate with Madagascar hissing cockroaches by saddling them with electrical devices that look like little backpacks. Each of these included a thin, rigid printed circuit board with a microcontroller, a wireless signal receiver, miniature plugs for connecting simulation electrodes and a lithium-ion polymer battery.
It’s akin to riding a horse, states Bozkurt. The roach walks naturally, and barriers are simulated by sending pulses to its antenna. The greater the electrical charge, the more sharply the cockroaches changed direction.
These biobots are an alternative to small-scale robots, which are challenging to create at this scale. Cockroaches are very hardy insects, and are capable of surviving in hostile environments. The next step involves reducing the size of the backpack.