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Spy Moth Cyborg On/Off Switch Perfected

Spy moth cyborgs are yet another step closer to reality as Cornell scientists use microfluidics to manipulate the moth's metabolism. This device acts as an on/off switch, and can dictate how long they flap their wings. This research follows closely on news that Spy Moth Cyborg Control Circuits Embedded In Pupal Stage Successfully.


(Spy moth cyborgs on/off switch)

Led by David Erickson, the Cornell team is the first to successfully plant microfluidic chips into insects. The tiny chips contain chemicals to paralyze the insects for short periods. The microfluidic chips therefore act as an on/off switch for the spy cyborg moths. One of the chemicals is the neurostransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a component of spider venom.

GABA can immobilize the moth cyborg in less than a minute, and prevent it from flying for up to two hours. The tobacco hornworm moth is used due partly to its large size; it has a wingspan of up to ten centimeters and a flight range measured in kilometers.

Humanitarians hope that the moth cyborgs can be trained to detect hazardous chemicals; they could fly into areas devastated by natural disasters and quickly identify contaminants. Military leaders hope to use them as spies, or to find explosives or landmines.

The idea of insect cyborgs with embedded control systems was originated by sf writer Thomas A. Easton in his 1990 novel Sparrowhawk. Read about the Roachsters from the book. Read more about how his book inspired scientists in this earlier article HI-MEMS: Cyborg Beetle Microsystem.

From Chemistry World.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/10/2008)

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