This is a robot going poo:
The robot in question is Ecobot III, which contains a fully functional digestive system capable of ingesting biomass, turning it into energy, and then excreting waste, graphically demonstrated in the above video. The actual digesting is done by a series of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), where bacteria chow down and produce hydrogen atoms as a byproduct. The hydrogen goes into a fuel cell, which generates electricity to power the robot plus pure water, which the robot then drinks to keep itself from getting dehydrated. The remaining biomass goes through the entire cycle once more, and then it’s, um, purged:
Director of Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Chris Melhuish, said MFCs had been tried before but an artificial gut was needed to solve the problem of previous models, which was that humans had to clean up the waste left by bacterial digestion. Melhuish said the robot was called Ecobot III, but admitted “diarrhea-bot would be more appropriate, as it’s not exactly knocking out rabbit pellets.”
The difference between Ecobot and other robots that use biomass for fuel (like EATR) is that Ecobot digests things to produce energy rather than burning them to generate heat to boil water to create steam to produce energy. Thanks to its bellyfull of microbes, Ecobot is actually able to digest things, and this makes it much more adaptable when it comes to sources of fuel, since it’s able to run on stuff that doesn’t burn, like waste water. Yes, this robot not only poos, it could potentially be powered by poo. At the moment, Ecobot III is only 1% efficient, and while it’s technically capable of operating for several days completely on its own, it can’t really do much in that time. After the jump, watch Ecobot II (a fully armed and operational predecessor) turning dead flies into zappy juice (which, believe it or not, we’ve actually seen before).