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Cyborg Cockroaches Might Fly Around to Form Sensor Network

2014/01/30 22:45
Tsuneyuki Miyake, Nikkei Electronics
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Osaka University and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) co-developed a fuel cell that is expected to be used for forming a wireless sensor network with cyborg insects.

The fuel cell was announced at IEEE MEMS 2014, an international academic conference that runs from Jan 26 to 30, 2014, in San Francisco, the US, under the title of "Diffusion Refueling Biofuel Cell Mountable on Insect." The cell measures approximately 20 x 15mm and can be mounted on an insect.

The fuel cell generates electricity by using trehalose (sugar) contained in the insect's body fluid (blood lymph). It consists of electrodes, a tank of body fluid and needle-like pipe to be inserted into the insect. The inside of the tank is separated by a dialysis membrane, and the body fluid flows into the tank by diffusion.

Trehalose is broken down by enzymes (trehalase and mutarotase) to produce glucose. Glucose is oxidized on the positive electrode side, and oxygen is generated on the negative electrode side (oxidation-reduction reaction).

This time, the two universities prototyped a fuel cell based on the principle by using a 3D printer, mounted it on a cockroach and measured its power generation capacity. As a result, it generated up to 50.2μW of power.

Research institutes, etc in many countries have been engaged in the research and development of controllable "cyborg insects." And the two universities aim to use their fuel cell as a power source that does not have to be replaced for a long period of time.

If the power source is combined with a technology to control an insect, it will become possible to use insects for wirelessly transmitting various sensor signals. And flying cyborg insects might realize a wide-area sensor network, eliminating the need to deploy many wireless sensor networks.


Tech-On!, Innovation ICT Laboratory and TSensors Summit Inc of the US will host "Trillion Sensors Summit Japan 2014" Feb 20-21, 2014 in Tokyo.