The Row-bot mimics the way a water boatman moves and the way it feeds on rich organic matter in the dirty water it swims in.

The Row-bot project aims to develop an autonomous swimming robot able to operate indefinitely in remote unstructured locations by scavenging its energy from the environment.

When it is hungry the Row-bot opens its soft robotic mouth and rows forward to fill its microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach with nutrient-rich dirty water.

It then closes its mouth and slowly digests the nutrients. The MFC stomach uses the bio-degradation of organic matter to generate electricity using bio-inspired mechanisms.

When it has recharged its electrical energy stores the Row-bot rows off to a new location, ready for another gulp of dirty water.

"The work shows a crucial step in the development of autonomous robots capable of long-term self-power. Most robots require re-charging or refuelling, often requiring human involvement," said professor Jonathan Rossiter from Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).

Researchers said the Row-bot can be used in environmental clean-up operations of contaminants, such as oil spills and harmful algal bloom.

 

 

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