Soon, insect cyborgs may monitor hazardous environments

Scientists are finding ways to use insects to monitor hazardous situations before sending in humans.

Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of electrical and computer engineering from the University of Michigan College of Engineering, and doctoral student Erkan Aktakka, are trying to harvest energy from insects, and take the utility of the miniature cyborgs to the next level.

“Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack,” Najafi said.

“We could then send these ‘bugged’ bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go,” he stated.

The principal idea is to harvest the insect’s biological energy from either its body heat or movements.

The device converts the kinetic energy from wing movements of the insect into electricity, thus prolonging the 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.

The team described several techniques to scavenge energy from wing motion and presents data on measured power from beetles.

The study has been recently published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

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