Futuristic, battery-operated cockroach robot

cockroaches cyborg
Photo credit: RIKEN

Now that the technology exists, scientists may transform regular cockroaches into cyborgs by implanting robotic equipment into their bodies. What we call a cyborg is a creature that combines biological organisms with technological components.

These cyborg cockroaches are equipped with a solar cell that can replenish its electric battery. Cyborgs have the added capability of being operated by hand signal or radio frequency. An multinational group lead by the RIKEN Institute in Japan has accomplished something that will fascinate some people and worry others.

The artificial element of the cyborg weighs less than may be imagined due to the use of ultra-thin electronics and flexible materials, and it also limits the motions of the biological part of the cyborg less than might be assumed. This allows the cyborg cockroaches to function in the same way as regular cockroaches.

Several groups have attempted to create insect cyborgs with the capability of aiding in surveys of hazardous regions or environmental monitoring. However, for such cyborg insects to be useful, they need to be able to keep running reliably for acceptable amounts of time. Its wireless leg parts are controlled by a small rechargeable battery, so keeping it charged is essential. Although charging stations may be constructed where these cyborgs dock to replenish their battery, the time it takes to stop working, and travel to and from the charging station, may compromise the completion of missions when time is of the essence. Thus,

It is much simpler to say than to really perform all of this. The research team had to create a unique backpack that could be attached to a living body, an ultra-thin organic solar cell, and a fastening system that holds different modules together for extended periods of time in order to successfully integrate these devices into an animal as small as a cockroach. simultaneously allowing the biological component of the body to move as it should.

Cockroaches from Madagascar, on average around 6 cm long, were used in experiments by Kenjiro Fukuda’s group at the RIKEN Institute. Both the battery and the wireless leg control module were fastened to the insect’s head. By 3D printing the assembly using a flexible polymer, we were able to create a perfect match with the cockroach’s curved surface, resulting in a secure attachment of the stiff electronics that lasted for almost a month. The solar cell on the cyborg generates 17.2 milliwatts of energy (mW).

In a paper titled “Integration of body-mounted ultrasoft organic solar cell on cyborg insects with intact mobility,” Fukuda and his coworkers examine the technical intricacies of this new kind of cyborg in great detail.

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