NEWS

Cockroaches to Sniff Out Radiation?

By Laura Spadanuta

The next time you see a cockroach on your floor, think twice before you step on it.  You might be killing an integral part of the homeland security infrastructure.

Researchers at Texas A&M University's Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute are experimenting with attaching radiation sensors to the backs of cockroaches, as reported in National Defense magazine via Wired magazine's Danger Room blog.  Researchers hope these backpack-wearing bugs might one day be sent into situations that are too dangerous for humans.

From National Defense:

“Cockroaches really are the perfect medium for this,” says William Charlton, an associate professor of nuclear engineering at the university and a principal investigator on the project. “They can go for extraordinarily long periods of time without food. They exist on every continent except Antarctica. They’re very radiation resistant, and they can carry extremely large amounts of weight compared to their body mass.”

Charlton envisions teams of cockroaches that can report back to an operator via a "low-energy communication system."  Such a system might be helpful in an area where a dirty bomb has been set off or some other type of contamination has occurred, according to National Defense.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation. Wired points out that the researchers have even bigger plans for the roaches. From the project's web site:

Our approach can also be used as monitoring the climate, pollution and presence of overt chemicals. Related applications include search and rescue activities, environmental monitoring, and counterintelligence.

 

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