Biological machines
A giant flower beetle flies about, veering up and down, left and right. But the insect isn't a pest, and it isn't steering its own path. An implanted receiver, microcontroller, microbattery, and six carefully placed electrodes--a payload smaller than a dime and weighing less than a stick of gum--allow an engineer to control the bug wirelessly.Professor Maharbiz's current research interests include building micro/nano interfaces to cells and organisms and exploring bio-derived fabrication methods.His goal is to create novel "biological machines" that take advantage of living cells' capacity for extremely low-energy yet exquisitely precise movement, communication, and computation. Maharbi­z envisions devices that can collect, manipulate, store, and act on information from their environments.

The devices are cheap: materials cost as little as five dollars, and the electronics are easy to build with mostly off-the-shelf components.The remote-controlled beetles are an early success story. Beetles integrate visual, mechanical, and chemical information to control flight, all using a modicum of energy--a feat that's almost impossible to reproduce from scratch.In order to deploy a beetle as a useful and sophisticated tool like a search-and-rescue "robot," Maharbiz's team had to create input and output mechanisms that could efficiently communicate with and control the insect's nervous system.

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