United States Navy has recently invested $750,000 to support a three-year research that will turn locusts into a valuable asset on the battlefield.
A team of scientists from the Washington University in St. Louis will analyze the olfactory system of these insects to find a way of using them as bomb detectors.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that they cannot invent a device that would be so accurate as a locust, so instead of wasting time developing a weak imitation, they decided to find a way of using locusts for our benefit.
According to Baranidharan Raman, lead researcher and associate biomedical engineering professor at Washington University, the wisest choice is to use these insects as the biological solution and core ingredient to this project.
The locust’s antenna has hundreds of thousands of sensors and a wide variety of patterns, making them impossible to be replicated by any human-invented device. It means that locusts can detect a particular scent even if it’s masked by countless others.
Raman stressed that the brain of the locust needs only a couple of hundred milliseconds to start tracking a scent which has just entered in the surrounding area. This insect is capable of doing that thanks to the fact its body can process chemical cues at an incredibly fast rate.
The team wants to develop a method of recording the antennae activity by implanting sensors into the locust brain. These sensors will decode and record the insect’s neural activity helping scientists locate the bombs.
The implantation will be performed through a very challenging surgery during which experts will attach electrodes into the locusts’ brain. The insects will recover in a couple of hours and behave normally.
Scientists will have to connect these electrodes to a tiny backpack that will be attached to the locust’s body, and it will be equipped with a transmitter which will send signals to an LED-hooked-up receiver. In other words, the light will turn red if bombs are nearby and if they are not, the device will light up green.
The other part of the research will consist of another device that will control the movement of the insects.
According to Srikanth Singamaneni, fellow Washington University professor, the locusts’ wings will be tattooed with a biocompatible silk material which will transform light into heat. This way, when a particular laser will shine on the right wing, for example, the locust will go right.
Image Source:Lettres de Paul