Cyborg LOCUSTS could be used to sniff out bombs

Cyborg LOCUSTS could be used to sniff out bombs after scientists ‘hijacked’ insects’ sense of smell by implanting electrodes into their brains

  • Experts revealed in 2016 a project to may bomb sniffing cyborg locust
  • Now, the technology has been implanted in to the bugs that can sniff out bombs
  • Scientists implanted electrodes in the insect’s brain to analyze neural activity 
  • Distinct patterns appear when it encounters certain chemicals used in bombs

Scientists have successfully ‘hijacked’ a locust’s sense of smell in order to detect bombs and prevent terrorist attacks.

Funded by the US Navy, the project implanted electrodes in the insect’s brain, allowing researchers to analyze the neural activity when it encounters certain chemicals like ammonium nitrate – a substance commonly used in bomb-making.

The team exposed the locust to five different explosives and within 500 milliseconds, a distinct pattern of activity appeared in the insects’ brains.

The procedure involved making a ‘minor’ incision in the locusts’ heads that allowed the insects to continue moving their mouthparts and antennae freely afterward.

And scientists added around 50,000 olfactory neurons to their tiny antennae, giving them the ability to sense substances in a wide range, OneZero reported.

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Funded by the US Navy, the project implanted electrodes in the insect’s brain, allowing researchers to analyze the neural activity when it encounters certain chemicals like ammonium nitrate – a substance commonly used in bomb-making

Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, has been given a $750,000 grant to use the highly sensitive locust olfactory system as the basis to create a bio-hybrid nose. 

Baranidharan Raman, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the university, said in an interview in 2016:’It appears that biology converged onto a solution for the problem of non-invasive, or ‘standoff’ chemical sensing and has replicated the same design and computing principles everywhere.’

‘Therefore, understanding the fundamental olfactory processing principle is necessary to engineer solutions inspired by biology.’

The team chose to use American locust because they are ‘sturdy’ and ‘can carry heavy payloads’.

The team exposed the locust to five different explosives and within 500 milliseconds, a distinct pattern of activity appeared in the insects’ brains. The procedure involved making a ‘minor’ incision in the locusts’ heads that allowed the insects to continue moving their mouthparts and antennae freely afterward (stock)

They also found that to transform the insects into cyborgs, they only needed to make a ‘minor’ incision in its head.

This not only avoid the need for extensive surgery, but also allowed the bugs to keep using their mouthparts and antennae.

Researchers also designed the locust with tiny wheels, so a human operator could control their movements.

According to OneZero, the scientists are currently working on silk-based ‘nanotattoo’ implants that will let the operator control the insects.

It would stick to the locust’s wings and generate heat, allowing experts to steer it with a remote control.

The tattoos will be studded with ‘plasmonic nanostructures’ which will allow the scientists to collect samples of volatile organic compounds nearby.

Using these, they will be able to analyse the chemical make-up of the compounds to work out smells the insects are detecting.

LOCUST SWARM IN HARMONY 

 Locusts communicate with their neighbors before changing their direction of movement, according to a recent study by the universities of Bath, Warwick, and Manchester

As a swarm increases in size, the locusts in it are more likely to stay on course.

In a small group, the researchers found that locusts don’t really interact.

But, when the numbers are increased, the locusts begin to move in a uniform direction.

The mathematicians believe the insects are sensitive to randomness, so disrupting the order of their swarms could help break them apart.

This could be good news for farmers, because the insects eat their own weight in food every day, threatening crops in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

 

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