A small, two-wheeled robot has been driven by a male silkmoth to track down the sex pheromone usually given off by a female mate.
The robot has been used to characterise the silkmoth's tracking behaviours and it is hoped that these can be applied to other autonomous robots so they can track down smells, and the subsequent sources, of environmental spills and leaks when fitted with highly sensitive sensors.
The results have been published today, 6 February, in IOP Publishing's journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, and include a video of the robot in action http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2k1T2X7_Aw&feature=youtu.be
The male silkmoth was chosen as the 'driver' of the robot due to its characteristic 'mating dance' when reacting to the sex pheromone of the female. Once the male is stimulated by the pheromone it exhibits a distinctive walking pattern: straight-line and zigzagged walking consisting of several turns followed by a loop of more than 360.
Lead author of the research, Dr Noriyasu Ando, said: "The simple and robust odour tracking behaviour of the silkmoth allows us to analyse its neural mechanisms from the level of a single neuron to the moth's overall behaviour. By creating an 'artificial brain' based on the knowledge of the silkmoth's individual neurons and tracking behaviour, we hope to implement it into a mobile robot that will be equal to the insect-controlled robot developed in this study."
The researchers, from the University of Tokyo, attached the silkmoth to a free-moving polystyrene ball at the front of the robot which was used for overall control, much like the ball in a computer mouse.
Two 40 millimetre fans were attached at the front to divert the pheromone-containing air to the on-board moth the researchers believe the fans are comparable to the wings of the silkmoth that flap to generate ai
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics