Science

Scientists Have Wired A Cockroach, Matrix-Style

Cripes, why don’t we just hand the planet over to the robots already. Things were bad with the self-controlling war machines and computers capable of destroying our greatest trivia minds, but now we’ve invented biological electricity harvesters. Might as well build a fleet of Squids while we’re at it.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University successfully generated electricity using the chemical reactions within a false death’s head cockroach’s abdomen. It wasn’t a lot of energy — the maximum power density obtained was only 100 microwatts per square centimeter at 0.2 volts — but it’s the first time this has been achieved.

The process works like this. Roaches produce trehalose, a sugar, naturally from its diet. An enzyme located on the anode is introduced into the bugs gut in order to break the trehalose down into two simpler sugars, which are then broken down further by a second enzyme to release their stored electrons, which flow towards the cathode.

Researchers first tested this process in simulation and then live-tested it by inserting two electrodes into a female cockroaches blood sinus (sounds worse than it is). The incredible part is that the insects are apparently unharmed by the process, which means that long-term implantable devices could be possible.

“Insects have an open circulatory system so the blood is not under much pressure,” Biology Professor Roy E. Ritzmann, who oversaw the experiment, explained. “So, unlike say a vertebrate, where if you pushed a probe into a vein or worse an artery (which is very high pressure) blood does not come out at any pressure. So, basically, this is really pretty benign. In fact, it is not unusual for the insect to right itself and walk or run away afterward.”

Besides the whole humanity-enslaved-by-its-own-inventions scenario, we could wire up a battalion of cockroaches with little head-mounted lasers powered by the contents of their own guts! It’d be awesome — instead of flipping on the light late at night and watching them scurry, you’d instead be met with a barrage of adorable, tickling laser fire. Did I say tickling? I meant blinding. [CASE via Medgadget via ohGizmo!]


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