Poo-Powered Robot Launched
A robot which is powered by human waste from Saltford sewage treatment works has been unveiled.
The EcoBotIII feeds off and is powered by sewage from the works near Bath, and can move and operate its onboard mechanisms unaided.
Energy derived from the nutrient rich sewage is produced in batteries known as microbial fuel cells, which power the robot by transforming waste into electricity.
It was developed through a partnership between us and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England.
It is believed that the success of the robot could change treatment processes at sewage plants in the future - driving down energy costs.
Dr Julian Dennis, director of innovation and research, who initiated the idea of using waste from sewage works, said: "Currently our treatment processes are energy intensive, but if there was a way of replicating the EcoBotIII on a larger scale, some processes could be powered on the sewage they are treating.
“It would eliminate the need for electricity and would mean that in the future, sewage treatment works could become self-sufficient - driving down operational costs and significantly reducing our carbon footprint."
The robot which took around three years to build, weighs 6kg and has the appearance of a three-tiered wedding cake complete with a fly trapping hat and an artificial stomach.
Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, a senior research fellow at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory said it was the first time scientists had developed this type of robot.
He added: "One of the main drivers for this research was remote area access, where artificial agents can operate for prolonged periods by utilising the organic matter in their vicinity.
“The successful collaboration with Wessex Water has not only helped us realise and implement such an adventurous project, but has also revealed the new and fertile area of energetically autonomous wastewater treatment in the research.
“This is now a growing field in our research and future work will continue to foster the partnership between the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Wessex Water, in an attempt to make the microbial fuel cell powered autonomous robots – a complementary part of wastewater treatment.”
It is not the first time we have found ways of generating power through the use of sewage. In 2010 we launched the Bio-Bug, the UK's first VW Beetle that runs on bio-gas produced at Bristol sewage treatment works.
Dr Dennis added: "We're pleased that through our partnership with the University, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory has achieved this discovery which will benefit us both in the future.”
SOURCE: Wessex Water