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TMCnet Feature

November 11, 2013

C3 PeeO? Urine-powered Robot Operates With a Human-like Heart


A waste driven robot known as EcoBot III is the talk of the scientific world. The lightweight, self-sustaining robot was specifically designed to clean wastewater. EcoBot III is powered by Microbial Fuel Cells. It runs off of human waste, which produces the electricity necessary for it to clean waste water.

 EcoBot III was a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and was developed in collaboration between Wessex Water and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

 Green Building Scientists believe that they are so close to creating a waste-driven robot that is a truly autonomous by building an artificial heart capable of pumping urine into the machine's bacterially-driven "engine room". The robot is the result of ten years of work by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the University of the West of England and University of Bristol.

 "When heated with an electric current, the artificial muscles compressed a soft region in the centre of the heart-pump, causing the fluid to be ejected through an outlet and pumped to a height that would be sufficient to deliver fluid to an EcoBot’s fuel cells,” the team who created it explains. "The artificial muscles are then cooled and returned to their original shape when the electric current was removed, causing the heart-pump to relax and prompting fluid from a reservoir to be drawn in for the next cycle," they added.

 Scientists believe that in the future robots will be capable of doing environmental tasks such as measuring temperature, humidity and monitoring air quality. 

“The artificial heartbeat is mechanically simpler than a conventional electric motor-driven pump by virtue of the fact that it employs artificial muscle fibres to create the pumping action, rather than an electric motor, which is by comparison a more complex mechanical assembly," Peter Walters, lead author of the study which appears in today's Bioinspiration and Biomimetics said.

 Walters explained that the heart is functioning, but that it is matter of future development to actually get it built into the next generation EcoBots.

 Scientists say that in the future if these robots become more common urine can be collected in city’s from public restroom urinals and from farms in rural areas.

 

Walters concluded: "It is hard to predict and control the long-term application of any new technology, and this is particularly difficult in a fast-moving field like robotics. We hope that future waste-powered robots would be used for humane and not harmful purposes."




Edited by Cassandra Tucker


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