Nature had always proven to be quite the inspiration for science over the ages. How else did you think that man learned how to fly, wings made out of wax notwithstanding? Well, a group of researchers have managed to come up with a tiny two-wheeled robot that will study just how the insect is capable of tracking down smells. In the process, these researchers intend to understand the scent-tracking behavior of a silkmoth (aka Bombyx mori), which eventually could assist scientists in developing robots which are able to sense environmental spills as well as leaks simply through the sense of smell.
A male silkmoth was used due to its distinctive mating dance that requires it to home in on a pheromone, which is a chemical signal from its mate. This allowed the moth to “drive” the robot, so to speak, by walking on a rotating polystyrene ball onboard, which works in a similar manner as that of a trackball in order to control a computer cursor. Said insect decided to drive the robot inside a wind tunnel that helped simulate the flow of air, “driving” upwind to track the pheromone. Biologically guided navigation in robots, now this is definitely worth throwing more money at.