In a collaborative effort between Wessex Water and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, scientists in Great Britain have developed a robot capable of transforming human waste into usable energy.
The robot, dubbed EcoBot-III, uses the nutrient rich sewage to produce energy in batteries known as microbial fuel cells. That energy is converted into electricity which powers the robot.
The robotics project took approximately three years to complete. The robot itself is a three-tiered structure which contains layers of microbial cells, catchment trays, and a fly trapping "hat" linked to an artificial stomach. Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, a senior research fellow at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, told Nanowerk this was the first robot ever developed to utilize human waste in such a manner.
The concept was the brain child of Dr. Julian Dennis. Dennis believes that since treating waste uses a large amount of energy, which can be quite expensive, using robots such as EcoBot-III to convert the waste into electricity would allow sewage plants to actually power themselves by utilizing the waste they are treating.
Dennis told Phys.org:
"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."