Cockroaches are not everyone’s cup of tea, but a recent development by a team of Japanese scientists may change the way you look at the virtually indestructible creepy-crawlies. Osaka University and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology developed a tiny fuel cell that can transform the insects into a self-powered, wireless sensor network. The battery-free bugs can then be remotely controlled to look for trapped disaster victims.
The tiny fuel cell generates electricity by breaking down trehalose, a type of sugar found in the roach’s body fluid. The fluid flows through a small needle-like pipe inserted into the roach’s torso and into a tank through the process of diffusion. Enzymes convert the trehalose into glucose, which is then oxidized by electrodes.
Prototype testing has shown that the tiny but mighty cockroach can generate up to 50.2 μW of power. The researchers hope to use their fuel cell as a sustainable power source that won’t need replacement for long periods of time. Once combined with remote control technology, these flying cyborg insects could cover a wide-area sensor network at a fraction of the cost and maintenance of typical wireless sensor networks.