'Cyborg moths' come closer to reality
Scientists have developed methods for electronically manipulating the flight muscles of moths and for monitoring the electrical signals moths use to control those muscles.
According to the researchers at North Carolina State University, these methods would make it possible for them to develop remotely-controlled moths, or "biobots," for use in emergency response.
Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State said that in the big picture, we want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search and rescue operations and the idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster.
The new findings in the paper involve methods developed by Bozkurt's research team for improving our understanding of precisely how a moth coordinates its muscles during flight.
By attaching electrodes to the muscle groups responsible for a moth's flight, Bozkurt's team is able to monitor electromyographic signals - the electric signals the moth uses during flight to tell those muscles what to do.
The moth is connected to a wireless platform that collects the electromyographic data as the moth moves its wings. To give the moth freedom to turn left and right, the entire platform levitates, suspended in mid-air by electromagnets.
The researchers said that by watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, they are getting a much better understanding of how moths maneuver through the air.
They added that this information will help them develop technologies to remotely control the movements of moths in flight and its essential to the overarching goal of creating biobots that can be part of a cyberphysical sensor network.
The study was published online in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).
(Posted on 22-08-2014)