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Self-powered cyborg cockroaches are coming

Emily Price

Soon you might start wishing there were more cockroaches in your neighborhood. Osaka University and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have co-developed a fuel cell that could be used to create a wireless sensor network comprised of a league of self-powered, high-tech insects.

Researchers have already been successful in controlling battery-operated roaches and using them as sensors. With the new fuel cell, sensors are instead powered by the insect's body fluid (trehalose) through a small needle inserted in its torso. The technology, which has been in the works for a while, lets the battery-free bugs work without needing anything but a nibble of leftover pizza. A 3D-printed prototype of the cell produced 50.2 microwatts of power from a single cockroach, an impressive feat for a bug most of us would squash on sight.

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