For years now, DARPA and other free-thinking research institutions have been developing micro-air-vehicles (MAV), usually modeled after insects. But building a tiny, lightweight flying robot is tough when you need a power supply--like an onboard battery--to keep the MAV flying. Then researchers turned to insect mind control--implanting live insects with machinery that lets humans manipulate their movements--but the problem remained: neural control hardware requires a battery to run.
Now, a team of Michigan researchers may have finally solved the battery problem by demonstrating an energy scavenger that derives power straight from the insects own wing motion. Using a tethered Green June Beetle and a couple of piezoelectric generators mounted on its wings, the researchers were able to generate 45 µW (that’s microwatt, or one one-thousandth of a milliwatt) of power.What’s more, they think they could improve that by an order of magnitude if they made the beetle a true cyborg and directly implanted the generators to the insect’s flight muscles. That’s enough power to run the onboard neuro-hardware needed to manipulate the beetles--which means basically the ability to tell a Green June beetle to fly depends on the power generated from flight.
That’s pretty cool, considering DARPA and the rest of the cyborg insect research establishment has a variety of roles in mind for the sensor laden drone insects of the future, including search and rescue, intelligence and surveillance, environmental monitoring and the like.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.