Urine-Powered Robots

(Photo: Bristol Robotics Laboratory)

Looking for an alternate energy source for your household killbots? Urine luck! Peter Walters, a researcher at the University of the West of England, is working on a renewable means of supplying energy to robots. He and colleagues at the University of Bristol have developed a microbial fuel cell that can feed on human urine.

The microbes digest urine. In the process, they create electricity which the generator can capture. Here’s how their invention, which is pictured above, works:

The pump is constructed from smart materials, called shape memory alloys, which remember their shape after being deformed.

Heating the artificial muscles with an electric current causes them to compress the soft center of the pump, forcing urine through an outlet that pumps it up to the height of the robot's fuel cells. Removing the heat allows the muscles to revert to their original shape, allowing more fluid to enter the pump — much as a heart relaxes to suck in more blood.

Twenty-four of these fuel cells stacked together were able to produce enough electricity to charge a capacitor, which was used to trigger contractions of the artificial heart pump, the researchers report today (Nov. 8) in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

Mr. Walters speculates that robots powered by this urine fuel cell could recharge at public restrooms.

-via Marginal Revolution

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