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This Algae-Eating Robot Could Solve Water Contamination

Nov 04, 2016 04:50 AM EDT
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Robots
The world wanted robots to be automated, self-sufficient, and needs minimal or no human help. This seems to be impossible, until a new breed of technology tries to mimic metabolism where a robot can now 'eat' and digest living organism.
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Experts from the UK have developed a scavenger robot with a "mouth" and a "stomach" that can "eat" and eventually digest organisms to provide its energy requirements.

Robotics experts from the University of Bristol have innovatively created a soft robot that can consume living organisms. Their paper was published in the Journal of Soft Robotics, where corresponding author Philamore Hemma from the Department of Engineering and Mathematics and his colleagues showed an autonomous robot design that is self-sustaining. They created a soft mouth and a gut by employing polymer membranes and a microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach.

Read here: Toward Energetically Autonomous Foraging Soft Robots

Based on the model, the self-sustenance of the robot relies on the capability of its MFC stomach. By ingesting microorganisms, it breaks down the organic matter into electrical energy through bacterial respiration. This concept originated from the characteristics of salps, which are transparent tube-like marine creatures that filter water for their survival.

Through this technology, UK is investing on other projects that can help in developing high-end robots for a spectrum of purposes. Prof. Ioannis Ieropoulous, head of a Bristol Robotics Laboratory project, shared his insights on the soft robotics innovation in an interview with MailOnline.

"By deploying these robots in remote environments and building in telemetry, we can also be collecting valuable information from that environment, such as temperature, pH, relative humidity, pollutants concentration, depending on the sensor technology that may be incorporated," he said. "Longer term, these would be the agents that could hopefully be deployed in search and rescue missions, where energy management -- such as battery recharging or replacement -- is extremely challenging."

Experts claim that this breakthrough can soon be an important tool in resolving algal blooms in the aquatic ecosystems. Since it feeds on microorganisms such as algae, robotics experts are also hoping that someday, developing this robo-scavenger can help in the eutrophication cleanups and similar water contamination problems.

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