Magazine article National Defense

Backpack-Wearing Cockroaches to Detect Radiation

Magazine article National Defense

Backpack-Wearing Cockroaches to Detect Radiation

Article excerpt

* The creature that's expected to inherit the Earth following a nuclear holocaust might also be well suited to help prevent man's atomic self-destruction.

Researchers at Texas A&M University's Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute have attached radiation sensors to the backs of cockroaches. They hope public-safety officials will one day send the souped-up insects into situations that are too risky for humans.

"Cockroaches really are the perfect medium for this," says William Charlton, an associate professor of nuclear engineering at the university and a principal investigator on the project. "They can go for extraordinarily long periods of time without food. They exist on every continent except Antarctica. They're very radiation resistant, and they can carry extremely large amounts of weight compared to their body mass."

He envisions teams of about 20 remotely-controlled roaches--each carrying one of three types of sensors meant to detect different nuclear materials--that would march through areas of up to a square kilometer and send their readings back to an operator via a tiny, low-energy communications system. This would help officials determine if potentially contaminated areas--such as buildings where they suspect terrorists have planted a dirty bomb--are safe for humans. …

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