DARPA Cyborg Insects With Nuclear-Powered Transponders

DARPA's cyborg HI-MEMS insects are now equipped with a transponder that uses a radioactive fuel source.


(Results of insertions done at different stages of metamorphosis.)

Electrical engineering associate professor Amit Lal and graduate student Steven Tin presented a prototype microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) transmitter—an RF-emitting device powered by a radioactive source with a half-life of 12 years, meaning that it could operate autonomously for decades. The researchers think the new RFID transmitter, which produces a 5-milliwatt, 10-microsecond-long, 100-megahertz radio-frequency pulse, could lead to the widespread use of radioisotope power sources.

... In his presentation, Tin said that part of the goal of the radioisotope transmitter work is to power the insects that the group is developing for DARPA. The HI-MEMS program, which is approaching its fourth year, has already grown several kinds of insects—moths and beetles—with implanted control electronics. With such controls, they can be driven by a remote operator for ”stealth applications” and disaster response.

Science fiction fans recall the blurbflies from Jeff Noon's excellent 2000 novel Nymphomation. Even earlier, the housefly monitors from Philip K. Dick's 1964 novel Lies, Inc. was loaded with all kinds of devices that needed tiny power supplies:

Time for a replacement of both Behren and his dipterous insect, both of them with one arboreal, American orthopterous katydid; it would carry twice the minned receptors and recording spools of 33048 and probably would possess the brain convolutions of Behren and his housefly put together.

From IEEE.

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