Feeds

Brits design fly-eating autobot

Uses human excrement to attract lunch

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Scientists at the University of the West of England have designed a potentially autonomous robot which feeds on flies attracted by human excrement and uses them to generate electricity, the New Scientist reports.

EcoBot II is reckoned to be a real step towards "release and forget" autonomous robots - albeit it a small one. At present, EcoBot II has to be fed bluebottles manually by its creators and can generate enough juice to travel at about 10 centimetres an hour.

The device uses the chitin in the fly's exoskeleton for fuel. The six-legged snacks are digested by bacteria in eight "microbial fuel cells" (anaerobic chambers filled with raw sewage slurry). The bacteria produce enzymes which break down the fly chitin, releasing sugars which the bacteria then absorb and metabolise. This latter process produces electrons which EcoBot II captures to generate electricity.

So far, so good. But the next challenge for the team is to enable its roving robotic insectivore to acquire its own lunch. While lead boffin Chris Melhuish admits that "one of the great things about flies is that you can get them to come to you", the sticky problem of how to capture them is yet to be resolved. The scientists say that a solution would perhaps "involve using a bottleneck-style flytrap with some form of pump to suck the flies into the digestion chambers".

EcoBot II is intended for use in inhospitable environments where humans might fear to tread - which is just as well. As the New Scientist notes, any fly-noshing autobot which deploys human excrement as a means to get its neck in the trough is going to "stink to high heaven". ®

Related stories

Qinetiq bags robot maker
Epson parades tea cup-sized flying robot
DARPA figures out how to run a $2m robot race

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.