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Artificial heart to pump human waste into future robots

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Posted November 8, 2013

A new device capable of pumping human waste into the “engine room” of a self-sustaining robot has been created by a group of researchers from Bristol.

Modelled on the human heart, the artificial device incorporates smart materials called shape memory alloys and could be used to deliver human urine to future generations of EcoBot – a robot that can function completely on its own by collecting waste and converting it into electricity.

The device has been tested and the results have been presented today inBioinspiration and Biomimetics.

Researchers based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory – a joint venture between the University of the West of England and University of Bristol – have created four generations of EcoBots in the past 10 years, each of which is powered by electricity-generating microbial fuel cells that employ live microorganisms to digest waste organic matter and generate low-level power.

In the future, it is believed that EcoBots could be deployed as monitors in areas where there may be dangerous levels of pollution, or indeed dangerous predators, so that little human maintenance is needed. It has already been shown that these types of robots can generate their energy from rotten fruit and vegetables, dead flies, waste water, sludge and human urine.

Lead author of the study Peter Walters, from the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, said: “We speculate that in the future, urine-powered EcoBots could perform environmental monitoring tasks such as measuring temperature, humidity and air quality. A number of EcoBots could also function as a mobile, distributed sensor network.

Read more at: Phys.org

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