Washington DC: Pests like locusts are not usually on most people's minds when seeking an alternative to bomb-sniffing dogs.
However, a team of scientists from Washington University in St. Louis has managed to program these annoying bugs to sniff out a variety of smells, including that of explosives, reported Fox News.
A preprint research paper that appeared on the BioRxiv website claimed that cyborg locusts were used to sense gases emitted by explosive substances such as ammonium nitrate, TNT and RDX.
The scientists plugged the insects' brains with electrodes to record their neural activity while they were introduced to different chemical substances.
The brains of these machine-strapped insects formed distinct activity patterns just after 500 milliseconds of exposure to five different types of explosive substances.
Locusts' antennae come equipped with almost 50,000 olfactory neurons. Also, their strength and sturdiness allows them to carry heavy payload loads attached to their bodies
Lead researcher Baranidharan Raman, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University at St. Louis stated in a release on the university's website that "we expect this work to develop and demonstrate a proof-of-concept, hybrid locust-based, chemical-sensing approach for explosive detection."
The project was allocated a sum of 750,000 dollars in the year 2016 by the U.S. Office of Naval Research.