Hot Foam-Spewing Beetles Could Cut Down on ATM Criminals

May 09, 2014 09:37 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

Researchers in Switzerland have started using acid-spewing bombardier beetles to try cutting down on ATM robberies.

The blue-green bombardier beetle has one of the most aggressive chemical defense systems in all of nature. It releases a spray powerful enough to kill ants when it feels threatened.

The defense system works by storing two different chemicals separately in its abdomen, according to an ETH press release.

When the beetle feels threatened, it triggers a process that combines the two in a reaction chamber in its abdomen. This forms a toxic compound that can be sprayed on predators.

"When you see how elegantly nature solves problems, you realize how deadlocked the world of technology often is," Wendelin Jan Stark, a professor from the ETH Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences said in a news release this week.

Stark's team developed an anti-vandalism mechanism for ATMs using a number of layers of plastic.

If the plastic's surface is damaged, it will then release hot foam aimed at the robber's face, according to the release.

Stark and his colleagues were inspired by the bombardier beetle's defense system.

"This could be used anywhere you find things that shouldn't be touched," said Stark.

The technology could also be cost efficient since it does not require electricity to operate. The mechanism is triggered when plastic layer filled with chemicals are pressed together, according to the release.

Then they create a reaction that sprays the acid.

Research was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

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