A research breakthrough in Japan could mean future search and rescue missions will be conducted using cyborg cockroaches. In addition, a wafer-thin solar film is the real star of this show.
The techno leap that”robot bug“Possible” was developed by the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR), which said it outfitted a hissing cockroach from Madagascar with a tiny Arduino-based backpack, complete with wires leading to the beetle’s hind legs. When stimulated with an electrical current, the researchers were able to get the cyberroach to turn either left or right. Commands are sent wirelessly to the Arduino system in the backpack, which then moves the beetle.
in the a published paperthe CPR team, led by Kenjiro Fukuda of RIKEN’s Thin-Film Device Laboratory, said their experiment mainly focused on finding a novel way to power their robotic insect.
“The development of electronics that can be integrated into organisms has increased the demand for the development of power supply devices with higher power densities,” the eggheads write.
Due to the limitations of today’s battery technology, the team was not able to run its tiny electronic devices on batteries alone. So the team decided to combine a battery with solar power, using light to keep a small battery in the backpack charged for as long as possible.
This solar energy was generated by an organic solar cell film just 4 microns thick (for reference, a human hair is about 70 microns thick) and designed to be attached to a cockroach’s abdomen without restricting its movement.
By building this solar cell and wiring it to the battery, the team was able to squeeze two hours of activity out of the cockroach’s backpack unit. The researchers said most of the energy was expended sending and receiving Bluetooth signals to control the insect.
For those concerned about the roaches’ welfare, the 3D-printed backpacks are removable and the bugs are returned to their terrarium when not participating in tests.
Fortunately, the future of the bionic beetle is still a long way off
The thought of being rescued from a collapsed building with the help of a three-inch wired Cyberroach might not be the most pleasant idea, but for now it is just that – an idea. The RIKEN team has a lot of work to do to develop remote controllable insects capable of investigating disaster areas and danger zones.
First off, cockroaches are nocturnal and don’t exactly like the sun, a problem the team encountered. To charge the cockroach battery pack, the researchers had to alternate between light and dark phases, meaning the charging process was quite slow.
According to the researchers, circumventing this problem requires additional hardware, which includes a locomotion control system, light sensors and temperature sensors, none of which are part of the test setup. With these sensors in place, “an algorithm can be established that encourages the roach to remain under the light during the system’s loading mode, while also taking life support into account,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
The sort of algorithms and sophisticated cybernetics that would effectively override the cockroach’s instinct to hide from the sun are beyond the current capabilities of the system, the team acknowledged. For example, according to Reutersa recent demonstration of the technology had the cockroach turn left on command, but when told to turn right, it simply spun in circles.
RIKEN researcher Yujiro Kakei, co-author of the paper, said the total cost of the cyborg pack carried by the roaches was just 5,000 yen, or about US$35 (£31). Not exactly state-of-the-art hardware. Kakei said the team hopes to add sensors and a camera, and to miniaturize the technology for future iterations.
According to Fukuda, the technology developed by the team is not limited to cockroaches. “Our strategy can be adapted to other insects like beetles or maybe even flying insects like cicadas in the future,” Fukuda said. He said the solar film could also be built into clothing or used in skin patches to power vital signs monitors. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/09/22/japanese_solar_powered_cyborg_cockroach/ Japanese tinkerers build solar-powered cyborg cockroach • The Register