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Cyborg bugs as first responders

U. MICHIGAN (US) — A device that harvests energy from a bug’s movements could allow cyborg insects—rather than humans—to monitor hazardous situations.

The principal idea is to harvest the insect’s biological energy from either its body heat or movements. The device developed by engineers at the University of Michigan converts the kinetic energy from wing movements into electricity—prolonging battery life.

The battery can be used to power small sensors implanted on the insect (such as a small camera, a microphone, or a gas sensor) in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.


(Credit: Erkan Aktakka)

“Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones, and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack,” says Khalil Najafi, professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We could then send these ‘bugged’ bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go.”

In a paper published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, researchers describes several techniques to scavenge energy from wing motion and present data on measured power from beetles.

The research was funded by the Hybrid Insect Micro Electromechanical Systems program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.

More news from University of Michigan: www.ns.umich.edu/new/

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  1. Rob N

    Then all you need to do is find a way to steer these bugs. As I recall, work has been done on that as well. No need to make our own complicated nano-robots when we can just preempt an insect’s activities.

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