Cyborg insects capable of searching for explosives

Today, sapper soldiers or specially trained dogs are engaged in the detection of land mines, bombs and other explosive devices. However, each time they risk their lives, so scientists are trying to develop new methods for detecting explosives, and robots are used to neutralize them. Recently, American scientists managed to introduce electrodes into the locust brains and turn them into cyborgs that can smell substances contained in explosive devices. The accuracy of their detection is an impressive 80%, only in the created technology there are several significant disadvantages. And nobody knows, scientists will be able to eliminate them.

How American scientists managed to turn locusts into cyborgs was described in the scientific journal New Scientist. Researchers knew that when different substances enter the locust antennae receptors, completely different sites are activated in their brains. They suggested that if electrodes were implanted into the head of an American locust (Schistocerca americana) to detect reactions to various odors, they would be able to detect the presence of explosive particles in the air. To test their assumption, the researchers conducted an experiment.



Insects Can Find Explosives

As mentioned above, scientists have implanted electrodes in the locust brains to capture the electrical activity of neurons in response to odors. The electrodes were pulled to a device mounted on the back of insects to amplify incoming signals. Then the antennae of the cyborg insects were exposed to particles of various explosives. In this way, scientists found out exactly which areas of the brain are activated by the smells of certain chemical compounds.

At the second stage of the study, insects were transported through rooms in which the air was saturated with particles of various explosives. According to scientists, each individual insect recognized the species with 60% accuracy, and when using several insects, the accuracy increased to 80%. These are very good results, only because of several technology flaws, cyborg insects cannot be used as sappers.

Locusts massively destroy crops in many regions of the world, but even these insects can benefit

The first big drawback is that after the electrodes are inserted into the brain and the signal amplifier is installed on the back, the insects cannot move independently. Even during the experiment, they had to be transported on a cart, so it was obviously impossible to produce locusts in the mined fields to search for explosives. However, it is likely that researchers will be able to reduce the size of electrodes and amplifiers.

The second drawback is that after the introduction of the electrodes into the brain, the insects lived no more than seven hours. However, this is not such a big problem, because insects can not be called long-livers, and besides, a few hours should be enough for a successful military mission.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first technology to search for explosives using tiny creatures. In 2019, we told you about the Raytheon company, which developed genetically modified bacteria that can locate mines and signal their location with a bright glow. You can read more about this technology in our special material.

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Author: Flyn Braun
Graduated from Cambridge University. Previously, he worked in various diferent news media. Currently, it is a columnist of the us news section in the Free News editors.
Function: Editor
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