Feeds

Brits design fly-eating autobot

Uses human excrement to attract lunch

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

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

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
TRANSMUTATION claims US LENR company
Ten points of stuff out of a five pound bag
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE
But they'd lose a deathmatch against the coming Humvee-sized, armoured Arctic ones
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?