London, Dec 31 (ANI): In an experiment, scientists have shown how cockroaches can be made to power electronic chips placed inside them.
Engineers have been attempting to gain control of insects' bodies for some time, to act as discreet spies or to take advantage of their advanced sense of smell to detect chemicals or explosives.
To do this, researchers implant electrical stimulators that zap certain nerves or brain cells, triggering an impulse that makes the insect move in a desired direction.
This process can be controlled by a preprogrammed chip or by remote control.
But, powering these "stimulator chips" is a big limitation.
"Wires from an external power source restrict their motion, and most battery cells are too heavy and wouldn't fit on the insect," said Keisuke Morishima from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan.
Smaller batteries have been used, but run down in as little as a few minutes.
Instead, according to a report in New Scientist, Morishima suggests that the insects themselves could power the slave-driving chips. As a proof of concept, he glued a piezoelectric fibre - 4 centimeters in length, but just 200 micrometers across - to the back of a Madagascar hissing cockroach.
As the cockroach walked, each step stretched and squeezed the piezoelectric fibre, generating electricity via mechanical stress.
His experiments show that the cockroach's movement can generate more than 10 millivolts in a single fibre.
About 100 of these fibres would be enough to power the stimulators, according to Morishima.
According to Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics expert at the University of Reading in the UK, the method may be more easily applied to larger animals like rats, which could generate greater power when controlled using a similar system. (ANI)