Artificial Heart to Pump Human Waste Into Future Robots

You know, this is one hell of a headline.

I've always wondered what fictional robots like Bender Bending Rodríguez (above) on the TV show Futurama and R. Daneel Olivaw in Asimov's Foundation series of books ran on.

And now we know.

And it's TMI.

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.

Modeled 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, 8 November, in IOP Publishing's journal Bioinspiration 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.

A video of microbial fuel cells, fed on urine, charging a mobile phone can be viewed here --

Lead author of the study Peter Walters, 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.

"In the city environment, they could re-charge using urine from urinals in public lavatories. In rural environments, liquid waste effluent could be collected from farms."
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Story Source:  Peter Walters, Amy Lewis, Andrew Stinchcombe, Robert Stephenson, Ioannis Ieropoulos. Artificial heartbeat: design and fabrication of a biologically inspired pump. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 2013


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