Scientists were able to find a way to put human urine and other waste products into good use. EcoBots can now use them as energy fuel to work.
Researchers from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory led by Peter Walters devised a mechanical tool which can pump urine into the heart of the environment-friendly and self-sustainable robot called "EcoBot." The device works more like the human heart, wherein the robot is able to gather waste products and convert them successfully to electricity.
"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," Walters said in a press release.
Previous to this, the same team has already created four models of the EcoBot. For a decade, these robots were structured to use microbial fuel cells which are used to generate electricity by digesting organic wastes and produce power.
Like the human heart, the new device works by contracting the pump to squeeze the urine out. The liquid then is applied with hot electric current allowing it to be channeled through to a certain high level for it to flow to the robot's various fuel cells.
Thereafter, the muscles cool down and return to its initial form, made possible by muscle-like alloys which could recall its original shape. The pump then begins to relax and allows it to draw another set of urine fuel to resume another round.
This new discovery is very significant since these EcoBots may be used for monitoring and maintenance in highly dangerous areas where there is extreme pollution and swarming predators. This is possible because little human intervention is required for their continuous functioning capacities.
"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," said Walters.
Further studies of the research team will be concentrating on enhancing the efficacy of the pump and see how these may be used in future eco-friendly robots.
Their study was published in the Nov. 7 issue of the journal the Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.