06 February 2012

Power Your Robots With Human Waste

Most people consider human excrement to be worse than worthless. But a new breed of robot is coming which sees human waste as its bread, butter, and milk of "life." Ideally, such a robot would be able to adopt the configuration of a toilet, to facilitate the "waste to fuel" transfer and transformation.
Just an Idea
This combination toilet-et-robot allows you to visualise one possible example of waste-eating robot with a built-in fuel interface. But to be honest, the actual prototype looks more like the robot pictured below.

Tomorrow's new generation of self-sustaining robots might keep going nearly forever by grazing on dead insects, rotting plant matter or even human waste..."Robots that eat biological fuels could find enough fuel almost anywhere," said John Greenman, a microbiologist at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a joint venture between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol. "There is organic matter anywhere on Earth — leaves and soil in the forest, or even human waste such as urine and feces."

...The EcoBot team's work with such technology has not gone unnoticed. They received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in late 2011 so that they could push the limits of stacking microbial fuel cells that help tackle sanitation and energy needs by turning human urine or waste into useful electricity for radios or other gadgets.

Human waste might also someday help power space robots that accompany astronauts on long-distance space missions or to planetary colonies, Ieropoulos said. On Earth, the robots might crawl through the debris of growing cities, or survive on their own for years in the great outdoors. _SciAm
Researchers are taking many approaches to the development of robots capable of roving the natural environment, and grazing off the landscape. The idea of recycling human waste directly, using waste-eating domestic robots which also clean the apartment -- and clean themselves while they are at it -- is a clever twist.

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