In The Matrix, the Machines farm humans for energy. Today, we do the exact same thing with tiny critters like cockroaches.
Who would ever need such a tiny power source? The US Department of Defense. For years, the DOD has been looking for ways to equip small animals like insects and mollusks with battery-powered microcircuits and antennae that would allow them to monitor their surroundings. Just try to imagine a reconnaissance mission where your target is literally bugged with bugs.
The only problem with itty bitty sensors and radio antennae is that they require equally itty bitty batteries to power them, lest your tiny recon team become overburdened. But tiny batteries have short lifespan and low power output, so how do you solve the problem of a limited energy supply? Simple: turn each member of your tiny animal strike force into its own battery.
By implanting tiny biofuel cells into snails like the one pictured here, researcher Evgeny Katz and his colleagues have managed to extract electrical power from glucose and oxygen in the snails' blood. Even more impressive, however, is that these cyborg snails could be kept alive for up to six months. Those cockroaches we mentioned earlier? They could only be kept alive for around two weeks.
The researchers' findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Read more over on Nature News.
Top image via Shutterstock; cyborg snail via JACS