(Pictures via Etham Erkan Aktakka and the University of Michigan)
Electrical devices connected to the nervous system controls him. It makes him move, do things, and all the energy from every movement is harvested for their controller. Sound like a science fiction plot with humans at the mercy of technologically, and energy deficient, overlords? No, it is real. In reality, we are the ones levering our technical might over lesser creatures.
At the University of Michigan (UM), Ethem Erkan Aktakka with Hanseup Kim and Khalil Najafi found that it is too difficult to make a micro-air vehicle (MAV) and moved on to the control of nature's own complex mini-machines, insect. Nervous system control of insects is nothing new, see the neural controlled roach, but the team overcame a major challenge in the usage of insects as MAVs by harvesting power from the living organism itself.
The platform they chose was the Green June Beetle, a rather large and slow insect common in the U.S. summer months. The team attached a cantilever beam actuated piezoelectric element across the beetle's wings. This produced 11.5 µW. The team then attached two separate beams, one of each wing. This produces 7.5 µW per wing. The final device was a spiral piezoelectric element attached to the thorax, generating 22.5 µW.
At higher wing rates, 85-105 Hz, the spiral produced 45 µW. Placing the beam at the optimal position, closer to the wing muscle's base, yielded 115 µW. Although vibration harvesters, solar panels, and heat to energy devices have been used to power insect control circuits, the UM system has a greater reliability and produces power several magnitudes higher in some cases. Aktakka explained, "The developed device concept enables the practical deployment and extended operation of the same harvester on any individual of the same species, in addition to a great reduction in overall device weight compared to resonant harvesters. A significant power output can be obtained regardless of several Hz of shift in the flapping frequency, or the ambient conditions such as light or temperature.”
The search-and-rescue flag was raised in the further developing of this technology. It is human safety at the cost of lifetime servitude by insects. The project is funded DARPA in the Hybrid Insect MEMS program.
Where these three requirements must be met:
Demonstrate reliable bio-electromechanical interfaces to insects
Demonstrate locomotion control using MEMS platforms (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems)
Demonstrate technologies to scavenge power from insects.
I can not help but feel bad for these beetles. The compunctious cost of science.
If you saw the damage the beetles do to my roses and other plants around my house I don't think you would feel ANY remorse about using the beetles for power. Not to mention that they hurt when they fly into you. These beetles are totally expendable in my book.