Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ecobot Eats Dead Flies for Fuel

I had always thought that in the future humans would integrate more and more with machines and become cyborgs. But now I am starting to think it could go the other way, machines will integrate more and more biological agents and become alive.

Doing away with solar cells and batteries, their robot Ecobot II has a stomach consisting of eight microbial fuel cells, or MFCs, that contain bacteria harvested from sewage sludge. The microbes break down the food into sugars, converting biochemical energy into electricity that powers the robot. With bacteria breaking the food down and a type of robotic "respiration" in which air provides oxygen to the fuel cells to create useful energy, the whole system mimics real digestion as closely as possible. It is currently being fed a diet of dead flies and rotten apples.

That opens up a whole new range of possibilities, Greenman said. "You could take the robot and nail it to a tree and still be able to get flies or food to it or have it use tree sap, maple syrup and all the rest. You might get tree sap to run it and you could sense all kinds of things -- pollution, temperature, have some that work in the water."
via Wired News

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