A team of British scientists have successfully manufactured a prototype robot “heart” that runs on human urine, moving the world one-step closer to a slightly more scatological version of The Matrix. The heart, which was fabricated using a 3D printer, is actually a battery made out of microorganisms that hungrily devour the urine, converting human waste into energy. With just 2 milliliters of your liquid waste stuff, the heart can charge up to 3.5 volts and make 33 “pumps.”
The scientists behind the study—a team from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory—have big dreams for their little pee-powered heart, imagining armies of diminutive robots zipping around future cities, then ducking into public urinals to get a recharge. In between, they might perform simple tasks, like monitoring air and waste water quality, forming an entire urban network of mobile sensors that use clean energy to help monitor pollution.
We’re still a long way from seeing these “EcoBots,” as the scientists call them, zip under our feet while relieving ourselves in public restrooms, however. The “proof-of-concept” prototype heart only managed a 0.11 percent energy conversion rate, meaning the scientists still have a lot of work ahead of them. In the mean time, the team, which is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, are researching other ways human waste can power electronics.
Let’s just hope, for their sake, that these bots never become self-aware.