Technolog y PITY future cyborg insects. As if being remotely controlled by a human isn’t bad enough, their every movement may be harnessed to power the electronics that hijack their bodies. This could also extend the length of their enslavement, since the microchips had previously relied on tiny batteries with short lifespans. Engineers have been attempting to gain control of insects’ bodies for some time, to act as discreet spies or to take advantage of their advanced sense of smell to detect chemicals or explosives. To do this, researchers implant electrical stimulators that zap certain nerves or brain cells, triggering an impulse that makes the insect move in a desired direction. This process can be controlled by a preprogrammed chip or by remote control ( New Scientist , 6 March 2008, p 40 ). Powering these “stimulator chips” is a big limitation. “Wires from an external power source restrict their motion, and most battery cells are too heavy and wouldn’t fit on the insect,” says Keisuke Morishima from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan. Smaller batteries have been used, but run down in as little as a few minutes. Instead, Morishima suggests that the insects themselves could power the slave-driving chips. As a proof of concept, he glued a
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