Insect cyborgs to search and monitor hazardous environs
Listen to a radio interview between Prof. Khalil Najafi and Ross Solly of Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canberra. The interview aired Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at approx. 5:45pm EST (morning of Dec. 29 in Australia).
[The interview is 8:16 long.]
U-M Press Release
by Nicole Casal Moore (734-647-7087)
Nov. 21, 2011
Research conducted at the University of Michigan College of Engineering may lead to the use of insects to monitor hazardous situations before sending in humans.
Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and doctoral student Erkan Aktakka are finding ways to harvest energy from insects, and take the utility of the miniature cyborgs to the next level.
"Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack," Najafi said. "We could then send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go."
The principle idea is to harvest the insect's biological energy from either its body heat or movements. The device converts the kinetic energy from wing movements of the insect into electricity, thus prolonging the battery life. The battery can be used to power small sensors implanted on the insect (such as a small camera, a microphone, or a gas sensor) in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.
A spiral piezoelectric generator was designed to maximize the power output by employing a compliant structure in a limited area. The technology developed to fabricate this prototype includes a process to machine high-aspect ratio devices from bulk piezoelectric substrates with minimum damage to the material using a femtosecond laser.
In a paper called "Energy scavenging from insect flight" (recently published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering) the team describes several techniques to scavenge energy from wing motion and presents data on measured power from beetles.
This research was funded by the Hybrid Insect MEMS program of DARPA under grant no N66001-07-1-2006. The facilities used for this research include the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF) at the University of Michigan.
The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.
Energy Scavenging Insect Cyborg bugs
Insect-sized robots could carry cameras, micro-phones, and other sensors and communications equipment that are powered through energy scavenging and solar cells.
Related U-M Research
Most powerful millimeter-scale energy harvester generates electricity from vibrations (UM Press Release - 4/25/11)
In The News
photonics.com: Cyborg Bugs as First Responders? (11/30/11)
Futurity: Cyborg bugs as first responders (11/29/11)
The Register (UK): US boffins unleash piezoelectric insect cyborg (11/29/11)
Smarter Technology: Self-Powered Cyber-Bug Sensors (11/28/11)
Popular Science: Cyborg Insects Could Be First Responders in Rescue Situations (11/28/11)
CNET: Could cyborg insects act as first responders? (11/27/11)
Imagine Science Films: Bugged Bugs: The Future of Cyber Insects (11/26/11)
Med India: Insect Cyborgs Possibly to Monitor Risky Environments (11/25/11)
ABC News - WXYZ.com: Bugs could be the next Rescue Team (11/22/11)
IEEE Spectrum: Micro Energy Harvesters Will Make Cyborg Insects Unstoppable (9/5/11)
Wall Street Journal: Giant Nuclear Mutant Cyborg Insects of Doom (9/6/11)
Forbes : Powering a Cyborg Beetle Without Batteries (9/6/11)
India Times: Micro Energy Harvesters Will Make Cyborg Insects Unstoppable
Technovelgy.com (where Science meets Fiction): Harvesting Power From Flying Insects (9/7/11)
Parascientifica - Science and Beyond!: Cyborg insects generate power for their own implants
Geek.com: Wing energy harvested to power cyborg beetle's mind-control circuitry (9/2/11)
PhysOrg.com: Cyborg insects generate power for their own neural control (8/31/11)
Discovery: Energy From Cyborg Bugs (9/2/11)
Popular Science: Scientists Fit Cyborg Beetles With Generators that Turn Their Own Wings into Power Plants (9/1/11)