ATMs Learn Self-Defense From Acid-Spraying Bug

Beetle's spray system offers model for cash machines

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 10, 2014 7:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – The ATM is getting a lesson in self-defense—from a bug. Researchers in Switzerland were inspired by the bombardier beetle, which shoots out a gas that can burn skin, the Atlantic reports. The beetle's mechanism works by mixing two chemicals normally kept separate in its abdomen. When under attack, the beetle combines the hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone to spray its attack gas. The researchers copied this system by putting hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide side-by-side, separated by only a lacquer. Break that lacquer, and you get the reaction.

ATM makers could employ the principle in their machines by rigging them to ooze foam if someone begins tampering, say the researchers. Instead of burning acid, the ATMs could cover bills with dye and DNA, making the cash hard to use and easy to track. "Thieves may be able to run," notes Gizmodo, but "it's getting much harder for them to hide." In fact, the mechanism "could be used anywhere you find things that shouldn't be touched," a researcher tells ETH Zurich—whether to fight vandalism or keep animals off crops. (Click to read about another odd method of self-defense in the animal kingdom.)

ATMs could learn a thing or two about self-defense from beetles.
ATMs could learn a thing or two about self-defense from beetles.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
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