TECH
28/11/2013 04:50 GMT

Urine Powered Heart For Robots Sounds Disgusting, Actually Very Useful

If robots do take over the world, enslaving us all to do their evil yet highly functional bidding, not even a quick trip to the lavatory will provide any respite.

That's because they'll be farming our urine to power their cold, cruel hearts.

Scientists from the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol have designed a pee-powered artificial heart that could fuel a new generation of EcoBots.

pee pump

An very clever if slightly whiffy invention

These are robots that can create their own energy from waste in their surroundings using onboard microbial fuel cells (MFCs).

They can already use sewage, rotting plant matter and even dead flies but now there is one that runs on urine.

Dr. Peter Walters, Research Fellow at UWE, told Gizmag: "An advantage of using urine is that it is easier to pump than a viscous fluid like, say, sewage sludge, which wouldn’t be suitable for our pump.

"Also urine is a currently an untapped resource which is in plentiful supply – at present it is simply flushed down the drain when it could provide a source of energy."

The heart is made of 'shape memory alloys' that expand and contract like a real organ to pump urine to the MFCs.

Here the microbes break down the urine in a process that generates electricity.

One device provides enough power to power a phone call for 20 minutes.

Once the technology is more developed it is hoped ecobots can be deployed in remote of inhospitable environment, powering themselves on waste.

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 waste water 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."

The scientists behind the project also think the progress in biologically inspired robots could inspire a new generation to get involved in robotics.

The device has been tested and the results have been presented in IOP Publishing's journal 'Bioinspiration and Biomimetics'.

(Via Phys.org and GizMag)

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