SAITAMA, Japan, Sept 22 (Reuters) - If an earthquake strikes in the not too distant future and survivors are trapped under tonnes of rubble, the first responders to locate them could be swarms of cyborg cockroaches.
That's a potential application of a recent breakthrough by Japanese researchers who demonstrated the ability to mount "backpacks" of solar cells and electronics on the bugs and control their motion by remote control.
Kenjiro Fukuda and his team at the Thin-Film Device Laboratory at Japanese research giant Riken developed a flexible solar cell film that's 4 microns thick, about 1/25 the width of a human hair, and can fit on the insect's abdomen.
The film allows the roach to move freely while the solar cell generates enough power to process and send directional signals into sensory organs on the bug's hindquarters.
The work builds upon previous insect-control experiments at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and could one day result in cyborg insects that can enter hazardous areas much more efficiently than robots.