Cyborg Moth “Biobots”

Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University, and his research group are studying bionics, the interface between artificial and biological systems. Recently, they have accelerated the development of cybernetically modified “biobot” moths by electronically manipulating the flight muscles of moths and by monitoring the electrical signals moths use to control those muscles.  The goal is to create remote control moth swarms that could be deployed as part of a large cyberphysical sensor network to one day to one day identify public health hazards or locate survivors after a disaster. 


Through this research, Dr. Bozkurt and his iBionics research group have improved the understanding of how a moth’s muscles move during flight. Electrodes are attached to the muscle groups responsible for a moth’s flight while the caterpillar is still in its cocooned pupal stage. When the moth emerges from the cocoon, the moth is connected to a wireless platform that collects the electromyographic data as the moth moves its wings. To give the moth freedom to turn left and right, the entire platform levitates, suspended in mid-air by electromagnets.


A short video of their work can been seen here:


This is just the beginning of Bozkurt research group's work with these “biobot” moths. The next steps include developing an automated system to explore and fine-tune parameters for controlling moth flight and eventually testing the technology in free-flying moths.


For more information about this research, visit the iBionics website and this recent article in the Journal of Visualized Experiements. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Divison of Computer and Network Systems.