A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri has secured a three-year,Â $750,000 grant from the U.S. Navy‘s Office of Naval Research to developÂ sensing technology based on the locustÂ olfactory system.
EngineersÂ Baranidharan Raman,Â Srikanth SingamaneniÂ and Shantanu ChakrabarttyÂ aim to useÂ locusts’ sense of smell as basis for the development of a biorobotic sensorÂ for homeland security applications, the university said June 28.
The engineering team found during studiesÂ thatÂ odor-induced neural activityÂ allows theÂ insectÂ to detectÂ a particular scent and trainedÂ locusts canÂ identifyÂ 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,” saidÂ Raman.
âWe expect this work to develop and demonstrate a proof-of-concept, hybrid locust-based, chemical-sensing approach for explosive detection,” he added.
Singamaneni aimsÂ to apply a plasmonic âtattooâ studded with nanostructures to locust wings and remotely maneuver the insect to particular locations.
The engineersÂ also plan toÂ study the insect’sÂ brain activity as itÂ moves, explores andÂ decodes various odorants.