Remote controlled cockroaches

    It sounds like a concept for a science fiction movie, but it is a real and fascinating project: An international team of researchers, led by the Japanese RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR), is developing an Arduino technology-based control module that runs on live cockroaches to turn them into remote-controlled cyborgs. These hybrids of insect and machine should be used, for example, to roam and inspect dangerous areas in the event of natural disasters in order to provide valuable data. As heise reports, the control module is supplied with the necessary energy via a buffer battery, which is charged by a small solar cell.

    In the paper “Integration of body-mounted ultrasoft organic solar cell on cyborg insects with intact mobility,” published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics, the researchers explain exactly how they managed to capture a cockroach using their to remotely control the backpack module. According to the paper, the biggest challenge was to be able to successfully control the cockroaches over long periods of time so that longer deployments are possible.

    Arduino based control module

    As t3n explains, the scientists have come up with an impressive solution to enable remote control of the insects. A kind of electronic backpack is attached to the cockroach’s back, which is connected by wires to two sensory nerves at the right and left ends of the animal’s abdomen. As the researchers have already concluded from the results of previous studies, electronic impulses on both sides of the cockroaches are able to move the animal in the appropriate direction.

    According to heise, the stimulation of the legs and the remote control option thus achieved is made possible by Arduino technology. An Arduino UNO controls an NRF24L01+ wireless radio module, which can be used to send signals that can steer the cockroach left and right. Again the same module acts as a remote station and is connected to an Arduino Pro Mini. This Arduino Pro Mini evaluates the control signals and, based on this evaluation, stimulates the cockroach’s legs to make it move to the right or left.

    Solar energy provides the drive

    One of the biggest problems that the researchers had to face when developing the concept was the question of the energy source. The developers quickly rejected the idea of ​​a battery, since such a battery would simply run out of juice after a certain period of use, meaning that the researchers could no longer control the insect in question. For this reason, the top priority for the energy supply was that there is a high probability that it can be maintained in the long term. Therefore, the research team decided to use a solar cell with a battery.

    As heise explains, the scientists use a special adhesive system to attach the electronics, battery and the 0.004 mm thin, organic solar module to the cockroach, which is able to keep the solar module on the insect’s body for a longer period of time. without it falling off and without restricting the animal’s ability to move too much. Keeping the module on the cockroach’s body was made difficult by the fact that parts of the insect’s exoskeleton overlap, causing the abdomen to change as it moves. But the researchers also came up with an idea for this difficulty: They applied the individual cells of the solar module in layers, some glued and some unglued, which resulted in significantly greater flexibility and freedom of movement without the module falling off the cockroach.

    Thomas Weschle / Editor

    Image sources: pichetlee /