Insect Power

You have to be joking about the price of petrolAs another fuel crisis cripples the UK and petrol station forecourts close due to lack of fuel, maybe it’s time to explore another ways of powering our cars. Harnessing the energy from insects and bugs could hold the answer.

New Scientist reported that scientists at the University of Maine invented a robot flytrap which uses artificial muscles made of polymer membranes coated with gold electrodes. A current travelling through the membrane makes it bend in one direction – and when the polarity is reversed it moves the other way. When bent, energy is created. When a bug lands, the tiny voltage it generates triggers a larger power source to apply opposite charges to the leaves, making them attract one another and closing the trap.

Surely there could be some way of integrating a venus fly-trap mechanism for the motor vehicle? More research needed I think.

Treehugger stated that scientists from North Carolina State and University of Georgia were creating an extremophile super bug to make fuel.  The extremophile combines features of three to five other bugs, in an attempt to make a critter that creates fuels like butanol or ethanol.

More recently this year Discovery News described how a team at Case Western Reserve University led by Michelle Rasmussen and Daniel Scherson has tapped into the metabolic system of a cockroach to produce electricity. This isn’t the first time anyone has tried building a cyborg bug of sorts. A University of Michigan team tried it using piezoelectric materials. What’s interesting here is that Rasmussen’s group used the insect’s own body chemistry to produce electricity.

If fossil fuels have dominated the past two centuries could insects be our future source of energy and food?

  1. Keith V. Birkemeyer

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