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Scientists Turn Cockroaches into Superbugs to Help Rescuers in Disaster Sites

Scientists Turn Cockroaches into Superbugs to Help Rescuers in Disaster Sites

Tuesday, 15 February, 2022 - 07:15
A Madagascar hissing cockroach is pictured in this photo provided by the San Francisco Zoo. | REUTERS

Cockroaches are known to infiltrate homes through the tiniest of gaps, and this innate ability now has engineers in Singapore working to turn the pesky insect into an ally of rescuers at disaster sites.


One variety of the insect, in particular, has the team at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) excited – the Madagascar hissing cockroach. On average, an adult is 6cm long, 2cm longer than the local variety.


The species is large enough for associate professor Hirotaka Sato and his team at the school of mechanical and aerospace engineering, to equip the bug with a 5.5g “backpack” consisting of several sensors, including those that can warn of the presence of gasses such as carbon dioxide.


The cyborg bugs also carry a small infrared camera that can detect life by picking up temperature signatures. The idea is to release a team of them at a disaster site.


Prof. Sato’s research, which started four years ago, is being conducted in partnership with Singapore’s Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) and engineering firm Klass Engineering and Solutions.


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