Artificial gut frees sewage-eating robot from humans

July 20, 2010 | Source: New Scientist Tech

The middle section of the Ecobot III robot, which consists of the sludge distribution mechanism (white solid helical rings), and the MFCs (24 in total) which are shown just below the distribution mechanism. Underneath the MFCs there is an overflow collection tray which feeds back into the ingestion vessel above. (Bristol Robotics Laboratory)

The Bristol Robotics Lab in the UK has developed the self-sustainingĀ Ecobot III robot. ItĀ has an artificial gut and digestive tract, allowing it can survive for up to seven days, feeding and “watering” itself unaided.

It uses a recycling system that relies on a gravity-fed peristaltic pump which, like the human colon, applies waves of pressure to squeeze unwanted matter out of a tube.

The robot feeds a nutrient-rich solution of partially processed sewage pumped into its “mouth,” where it is distributed into 48 separate microbial fuel cells (MFCs) — bio-electrochemical devices that enlist cultures of bacteria to break down food to generate power.This fluid is a concoction of minerals, salts, yeast extracts and other nutrients.