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Beetle with tiny computer backpack is world's smallest cyborg insect, say NTU researchers

19:05, Sunday, 03 December, 2017
Beetle with tiny computer backpack is world's smallest cyborg insect, say NTU researchers

A swarm of beetles, carrying tiny computers as backpacks, could one day be crawling through cracks and crevices in search of survivors during rescue missions.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed what they say is the world's smallest cyborg insect, which they can move right and left, backward and forward, with the click of a button.

Using a species of darkling beetles that measures just 2cm to 2.5cm long and weighs only 0.5g, the team attached a tiny computer of the same weight on the back of each beetle using beewax.Using a remote control, they can send electrical pulses to the insect's antennae through implanted silver wire electrodes.

The electric pulses mimic those that the insect would feel when its antennae touch an object, which causes the insect to turn on its escape mechanism.

Sending an electric pulse to its right antenna makes it turn left, and vice-versa.

At present, two 1.55-V coin cell batteries can operate the tiny computer continuously for up to eight hours. The team hopes to extend this to three days through ways such as using a biofuel cell, which can generate power using glucose in the insect.

A paper on the work was published in scientific journal Soft Robotics recently.

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