Why design robots from scratch when nature already does so much of the hard work for us? That’s the reasoning behind cyborg insects and now scientists have found a way to make remote control cyborg cockroaches more advanced, by powering them using custom solar cells correction.
Insects use a range of powerful sensory organs, they are small enough to get to places we can’t, they can survive in harmful environments, and they can climb surfaces or fly with ease. . These are all useful attributes for robots – or better yet, cyborgs, by attaching electronic devices to living insects.
Over the years, many types of insects have been treated with cyborgs. Cyborg grasshoppers can use their sensitive noses to sniff out explosives, cyborg dragonflies can create nimble little drones, and cyborg cockroaches can glide through disaster zones to Search for survivors.
Previous versions used small batteries to power electronics, but that further limits how long they can last before they need to be charged or swapped. So, for the new study, researchers at RIKEN integrated solar cells into cyborg cockroaches.
The team attached electronics to the backs of Madagascar cockroaches, which grow to about 6 centimeters (2.4 in) long. That electronics package includes a lithium polymer battery, a wireless receiver and a module that controls the insect’s legs, which are fitted into a 3D-printed “backpack” that conforms to the curve of its chest.
They connected the device to an organic solar cell module mounted on the cockroach’s stomach. This ultra-thin membrane is only 0.004 mm thick, making them light enough for bugs to carry. Sticky and non-stick parts are used in different parts of the film so as not to hinder the movement of cockroaches.
These solar cells have an output power of 17.2 mW, which is enough to run electronic devices for two hours after 30 minutes of charging in the sun. The team says the output is 50 times higher than other energy-harvesting devices used on live insects.
These improvements could make cyborgs even better at moving through collapsed buildings in search of survivors or monitoring conditions remotely with tiny sensors. The team says that the new design can also be adapted to other types of cyborg insects.
The study was published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics.
Source: RIKEN via Eurekalert