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Washington University Engineering Team Receives Navy Grant to Develop Biorobotic Sensing Tech

Locust ImageA team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri has secured a three-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Navy‘s Office of Naval Research to develop sensing technology based on the locust olfactory system.

Engineers Baranidharan Raman, Srikanth Singamaneni and Shantanu Chakrabartty aim to use locusts’ sense of smell as basis for the development of a biorobotic sensor for homeland security applications, the university said June 28.

The engineering team found during studies that odor-induced neural activity allows the insect to detect a particular scent and trained locusts can identify certain odors in a complex environment, according to the university.

“If you look at the insect antenna, where their chemical sensors are located, there are several hundreds of thousands of sensors and of a variety of types,” said Raman.

“We expect this work to develop and demonstrate a proof-of-concept, hybrid locust-based, chemical-sensing approach for explosive detection,” he added.

Singamaneni aims to apply a plasmonic “tattoo” studded with nanostructures to locust wings and remotely maneuver the insect to particular locations.

The engineers also plan to study the insect’s brain activity as it moves, explores and decodes various odorants.

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