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Insect

— Robotics

Search-and-rescue robot could give locusts a better name

Despite the fact that locusts are held in fairly low regard by us humans, there's a chance that you may one day be rescued by one … or at least, by a robotic locust. Working with colleagues at Israel's Ort Braude College, researchers from Tel Aviv University have created a tiny locust-inspired robot that can reportedly jump over twice as high as other similarly-sized devices. They say that it could ultimately find use in search-and-rescue operations at disaster sites.

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— Health & Wellbeing

High-tech comb uses plasma to kill lice

As some parents will already know, head lice infestations can be very difficult to treat. Typically a toxic shampoo or lotion has to first be applied to the sufferer's scalp, after which the lice are removed by pulling a specialized comb through their hair. Louse eggs aren't harmed by such shampoos, however, so the treatment needs to be repeated once they've hatched. This means more nasty chemicals, and more discomfort for the child (or adult). That's why researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films have developed an alternative, in the form of a comb that zaps the pests with cold plasma.

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— Environment

Nanotech could rid cattle of ticks, with less collateral damage

If you've ever used tick medicine on your dog, then you're probably aware of how toxic the stuff is. Well, it's used on cows too, and it can end up in their meat, milk, or the surrounding environment. Fortunately, however, scientists at the National University of Mexico have developed a new type of tick treatment for cattle that is reportedly much less toxic than what's currently used.

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— Robotics

Insect-inspired amphibious robot jumps like a water strider

Despite what our science fiction-fueled imaginations love to be entertained with, there is more to the field of modern robotics than colossal combat machines or bionic baristas. Some projects may seem mundane by comparison, yet the results are no less impressive, especially the ones that enlighten through the process. Although it took a few trial and error attempts, scientists have finally created an insect-inspired robot that can jump off of water's surface.

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— Medical

Firefly enzyme inspires Swiss team to create portable disease test kit

Portable test kits represent an advance in disease diagnosis, as their ready availability increases chances of earlier detection and treatment. This type of technology is constantly evolving, and sometimes inspiration can come from surprising sources. Such is the case with research carried out by a Swiss team, which has borrowed from the mechanics behind the firefly's glow to develop a sensitive molecule detector.

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— Robotics

Streamlined shell helps robo-roach slip past obstacles

Besides simply being fascinating to watch, insect-inspired robots may someday find use as scouts in search-and-rescue operations. In order for them to function in such scenarios, however, they'll have to be able to move through fields of debris. While some scientists have looked at using sensors and algorithms that let the bots scan their surroundings and then plot paths around obstacles, researchers at UC Berkley have developed a much less complex but still effective approach – they've outfitted a robotic cockroach with a streamlined shell, that lets it just push its way through.

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