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Scientists Invent Urine-Powered Robots

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the bathroom-bot dept.

Robotics 123

Lucas123 writes "Researchers have already built robots that can use microorganisms to digest waste material, such as rotten fruit and vegetables, and generate electricity from it. This time, a group of scientists has taken that concept to a strange, new place: urine-powered robots. The scientists from the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol constructed a system in robots that functions like the human heart, except it's designed to pump urine into the robot's 'engine room,' converting the waste into electricity and enabling the robot to function completely on its own. The researchers hope the system, which can hold 24.5 ml of urine, could be used to power future generations of robots, or what they're calling EcoBots. 'In the city environment, they could re-charge using urine from urinals in public lavatories,' said Peter Walters, a researcher with the University of the West of England. 'In rural environments, liquid waste effluent could be collected from farms.'"

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123 comments

first post! (2, Funny)

FudRucker (866063) | about 5 months ago | (#45383693)

urine powered robots! piss on that!

Re: first post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384177)

Cock sucker ;-)

Re:first post! (3, Funny)

amiga3D (567632) | about 5 months ago | (#45384179)

I piss on our new Urine Powered Robotic Overlords!

No one can be told what the Matrix is... (1)

Guppy (12314) | about 5 months ago | (#45384755)

Urine Powered Robotic Overlords!

Morpheus: Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to pee it for yourself.

Frosty piss appropriate here? (3, Funny)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 5 months ago | (#45383705)

Piss poor idea or not?

Re:Frosty piss appropriate here? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45383835)

Some people are just too retarded to understand. You comment is not funny. Fuck off with your 8 year old mentality.

Re:Frosty piss appropriate here? (4, Funny)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45383953)

You meant "piss off", surely.

Re:Frosty piss appropriate here? (4, Funny)

boris111 (837756) | about 5 months ago | (#45384269)

Urine trouble now!

Re:Frosty piss appropriate here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384803)

Why did the robot shut down?

It was "pissed OFF".

Re:Frosty piss appropriate here? (1)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about 5 months ago | (#45386125)

I think it's a great idea. Now I have a plausible reason for sticking my dick into my robot.

Such degrading fuel sources! (2)

Goodyob (2445598) | about 5 months ago | (#45383709)

Won't that piss off the robots?

Re:Such degrading fuel sources! (4, Funny)

j35ter (895427) | about 5 months ago | (#45383757)

I guess Bender will like to get pissed...oh...uh...you know what I mean...

Re:Such degrading fuel sources! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384467)

Them perverts want you to feed it through the mouth or as a backup, throught its anus!

Overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45383729)

If our future overlords are powered off this stuff, they'll effectively harvest us. Why us and not other animals? Because then that would lead to perpetual extinction, and then where would you get urine? They need to keep us and the ecosystems alive to stay alive, and so they will enslave us to improve this world and ecosystems to maximize the efficiency of urine harvesting. Muahahahaha!

Bender (4, Funny)

j35ter (895427) | about 5 months ago | (#45383749)

Never saw that comming :)

Re:Bender (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45383787)

You got this bottle of "alcohol" from where now?!

Re:Bender (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45383817)

Brings a whole new meaning to "bite my shiny metal ass."

Re:Bender (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45386161)

Oh how the mighty overlords have fallen!

Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45383833)

Meat>Proteins>Amino Acids>urine. Start back up the ladder and get way more energy. Skynet will figure it out soon enough anyway.

"Brains! B-R-A-I-N-S!"

And people think a hydrocarbon economy is bad.

This sounds like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45383859)

This sounds like one of those technologies which we have already forgotten tomorrow and will never hear again about.

Molecules with sufficient energy? (2, Insightful)

PuddleBoy (544111) | about 5 months ago | (#45383881)

I didn't realize that compounds found in urine (a waste product, after all) contained enough convertible energy to make the net work output worthwhile. After all, you have to take into consideration the energy expended in gathering and transporting the urine to the robot. The article also mentions using waste water - waste water from what? Is the world just full of all kinds of energy sources that are being discarded, or are we finally realizing that what was once considered 'marginal' capacity for energy harvesting is worth pursuing, since much of the low-hanging fruit (e.g. easily-accessible oil deposits) has already been picked?

(Obligatory comment: I, for one, welcome our new urine-sipping robot overlords. What's that you say? You need several samples for my employment pre-screening?)

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 months ago | (#45384291)

After all, you have to take into consideration the energy expended in gathering and transporting the urine to the robot.

Your robot is also your urinal. No energy expended in transportation or gathering, any expended energy is already expended.

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (3, Insightful)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | about 5 months ago | (#45384523)

Your robot is also your urinal. No energy expended in transportation or gathering, any expended energy is already expended.

Next up: Sex robots that drink your pee!

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (1)

PuddleBoy (544111) | about 5 months ago | (#45385245)

Your robot is also your urinal.

OK, but a 'robot' that was small enough to carry around with you would seem unlikely to produce much power. (The article implied a small robot - maybe I'm incorrect.) Maybe just enough to occasionally charge your cellphone? You're gonna carry around a bag of pee to charge your cell?

I somehow hoped for something (ultimately) on a larger scale.

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385471)

Maybe a bathroom cleaning robot charged by the urinal?

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#45384525)

After all, you have to take into consideration the energy expended in gathering and transporting the urine to the robot. The article also mentions using waste water - waste water from what?

You have to take these considerations, but the alternative ones too : it means you don't need batteries (rechargeable - with limited lifespan - or disposable), or don't need a solar panel, or a significant infrastructure. People around it make do, be it in a small african or indian village, or a very remote area. Building a battery or solar panel and shipping it to the area of interest uses a ton of energy too. I'm more concerned about the fuel cell, which would have to be cheap, durable and without maintenance, and not much energy intensive to build. If that can be achieved that'd be great news. If the fuel cell is worse than using an AA battery or something, just use the battery.

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385101)

So why not piss powered TVs, or other electronic devices? Perhaps they can create power and then put out clean water?

Re:Molecules with sufficient energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384769)

I think a bigger problem would be filtering the urine so that the system gets urine and not other stuff that would cause problems.

Wet Dream. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384009)

I bet this article just made some technosexual with urolagnia creme in his pants.

The numbers don't add up. (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 5 months ago | (#45384025)

They neglect to mention how this conversion will be done, or how efficient it will be. "The microorganisms work inside microbial fuel cells where they metabolize the organics, converting them into carbon dioxide and electricity." The robots carry only 24.5 ml of urine, giving about .025 grams of urea to be metabolized. That's not much energy for a robot overlord.

Bender says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384047)

Piss in my shiny metal ass!

Rule 34.

Not so very strange (3, Interesting)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about 5 months ago | (#45384057)

There's a lot of useful chemistry and energy in ammonia (a significant component of urine), because nitrates, or bound nitrogen, have potential energy. Gunpowder manufacture in the middle ages relied on factory-style processing of animal urine.

Re:Not so very strange (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | about 5 months ago | (#45384689)

There's a lot of useful chemistry and energy in ammonia (a significant component of urine), because nitrates, or bound nitrogen, have potential energy. Gunpowder manufacture in the middle ages relied on factory-style processing of animal urine.

Urine Connections [slashdot.org]
So the sewer bots will be powered by urine and manufacture explosives from the nitrates and will be equipped with sensors to smell each other. So the robot overlords will be under? So next we have the proof of concept hack of a sewer bot to create a distributed denial of existence (DDOE) attack.
Life is becoming a free science fiction movie. I smell a sequel with methane powered poop bots.

Obligatory Communalistic [+91] Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384087)

How will this go in India? After all, this would mean competition for the consumption of bovine urine.

So what you're saying... (2)

Drewdad (1738014) | about 5 months ago | (#45384133)

"pump urine into the robot's 'engine room,' converting the waste into electricity"

So... Busch Light?

What about my phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384163)

I want a urined powered phone.

Re: What about my phone? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384205)

Might have piss pour reception!!!

Re:What about my phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45386065)

Oh god. It's bad enough that people use phones in restaurants and in cinemas. Imagine the same, with a faint smell of piss.

Come on! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384175)

Now you guys are just taking the piss!

Someone's having a laugh ... (0)

advance-software (1770510) | about 5 months ago | (#45384185)

Are they taking the p1ss ?

Re: Someone's having a laugh ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385577)

Finally! The only appropriate comment of its kind. Unfortunately the USAsians don't use this phrase, hence all the laboured punning (and frankly piss-weak) jokes above.

I wonder what will happen... (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#45384229)

The system relies on microorganisms (bacteria) in the pump to convert the proteins (organic matter) in the urine) into a fuel source for the fuel cells. I wonder what will happen when the urine from somebody taking antibiotics enters the "system" and disrupts the bacterial balance being used? Or, for that matter, urine containing any number of disease elements?

Of course, once can engineer the bacteria to not be impacted by such things. But then that changes the question to I wonder what will happen when this super bacteria gets out in the wild?

Re:I wonder what will happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385573)

When something begins with "I wonder", it's usually a statement of what you're wondering about. Making it a question is asking your audience what you're wondering about. So that last sentence should be either "But then that changes the statement to 'I wonder what will happen when this super bacteria gets out in the wild.'" or "But then that changes the question to 'what will happen when this super bacteria gets out in the wild?'"

Assignment for Japan (2)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about 5 months ago | (#45384273)

Golden shower addicted gynoids. Get to it, Japan. You know you want to.

Re:Assignment for Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384457)

I was going to say, Japanese Hentai Manga had it right all along. Add to that the lolicon angle, as you want them short enough for urinals...

In any case, ewww!!!!

I'll be right back. I need to "water" the robot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384281)

Ha!

Nothing to call home about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384359)

Oh wait [slashdot.org]

Collecting urine in Ancient Rome (2)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#45384443)

A commenter said this stuff is cyclical. Well, I learned a few weeks ago that romans did collect urine from public pots and urinals. Rather than pump it into fuel cells, they just waited till it breaks down to ammonia (our bodies are smart enough to convert ammonia to urea for safe internal storage). Then it was used to maintain clothes or for teeth whitening! ugh. I'm tempted to put ammonia in my mouth but that could be a bit dangerous.

Also why modern urinals were named after a Roman Emperor (Paris, 19th century). He came up with a pee tax, paid when buying urine at the public toilets - a place where endless thousands would come and go each day to piss, fart, shit and socialize.
Maybe we'll go back to something similar too - there's a lot of unused piss and shit and rotten things around, but the supply of it is actually limited.

Re:Collecting urine in Ancient Rome (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384533)

For the records, the roman emperor was Vespasien, he arguably said about this tax : "money has no odour"

Re:Collecting urine in Ancient Rome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385663)

For 2015, introducing the New Toyota "Pee-us"

Re:Collecting urine in Ancient Rome (2)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 5 months ago | (#45386183)

Reminds me of an old joke...:

A couple of nuns who were nursing sisters had gone out to the countryside to minister to an outpatient. On the way back they were a few miles from the convent when they ran out of gas.

They were standing beside their car on the shoulder of the road when a truck approached. Seeing ladies of the cloth in distress, the driver stopped to offer his help. The nuns explained they needed some gas. The driver of the truck said he would gladly drain some from his tank, but he didn’t have a bucket or can.

One of the nuns dug out a clean bedpan and asked the driver if he could use it. He said, “yes,” and proceeded to drain a couple of quarts of gas into the pan. He waved goodbye to the nuns and left.

The nuns were carefully pouring the precious fluid into their gas tank when the highway patrol came by. The trooper stopped and watched for a minute before he said: “Sisters, I don’t think it will work but I sure do admire your faith!”

Troll Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384647)

Don't they know it's offensive to take the piss.

Not a very BFD (1)

DeathGrippe (2906227) | about 5 months ago | (#45384649)

This appears to be the original article: http://iopscience.iop.org/0960-1317/15/9/S06?fromSearchPage=true [iop.org]

Here's the abstract:
"The first urine-activated laminated paper batteries have been demonstrated and reported in this paper. A simple and cheap fabrication process for the paper batteries has been developed which is compatible with the existing plastic laminating technologies or plastic molding technologies. In this battery, a magnesium (Mg) layer and copper chloride (CuCl) in the filter paper are used as the anode and the cathode, respectively. A stack consisting of a Mg layer, CuCl-doped filter paper and a copper (Cu) layer sandwiched between two plastic layers is laminated into the paper batteries by passing through the heating roller at 120 C. The paper battery is tested and it can deliver a power greater than 1.5 mW. In addition, these urine-activated laminated paper batteries could be integrated with bioMEMS devices such as home-based health test kits providing a power source for the electronic circuit."

Looks to me like it's nothing more than the old trick of making a battery out of a lemon or other piece of acidic fruit.

Re:Not a very BFD (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 5 months ago | (#45386159)

Looks to me like it's nothing more than the old trick of making a battery out of a lemon or other piece of acidic fruit.

Indeed. And in these batteries (and in most commercial batteries too...), the energy does not actually come from the electrolyte (the liquid) but from the electrodes, which are slowly "consumed" as the battery discharges.

A Dalek in the Loo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384667)

Dalek: The hu-man will provide en-er-gy!
Human: What?
Dalek: The hu-man will u-ri-nate!
Human: Wait, what?!
Dalek: U-RI-NATE! U-RI-NATE!

Recycling Old Slashdot Stories (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 5 months ago | (#45384759)

"Urine powered ___" has been popping up on Slashdot for years now. Once they covered the battery, ( http://slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=urine+power [slashdot.org] ), you can kind of keep running these posts on vibrators, flashlights, cell phones, etc. and get the same jokes ad nauseum.

Re:Recycling Old Slashdot Stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45386739)

It's a bonding type article for this crowd, so automatically accepted by eds unless there is a direct dupe of the SPECIFIC project.

i swear officer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384787)

i was just fueling up the robot, this is not of a sexual nature!

Leveraging UK pubs for energy (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | about 5 months ago | (#45384969)

Brilliant!! THe UK will now be able to use the nations pubs to generate energy. Given the high domestic alcohol consumption the UK will be energy independent in less than a year. It could even become a patriotic duty to drink even more:)

Re:Leveraging UK pubs for energy (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 5 months ago | (#45386131)

The pee of a drinker still contains less energy than the alcohol used to generate it. The other part of the energy is needed to build up the beer belly after all. Or where you thinking that the drinker's body is generating this energy out of thin air?

So it'd better to use the ethanol directly for fuel... but that doesn't work either, a currently the machines needed to work the farms where the grain for the ethanol is grown consume more energy than is contained in the product, and this industry only works with the help of government subsidies (which only exist in this form in the US, but not in the UK)

Piss fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385115)

Battletech saw this coming.

We, Robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385119)

or Wee, Robot. If we were living in Rand's dystopian Anthem novel.

Oh c'mon, it was a little funny.

Hypocritical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385125)

Now, if scientists are truly under the understanding that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a bad thing, why is creating a robot that turns waste products into electricity and *carbon dioxide* considered a green initiative?

Great news for the homeless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385191)

They can finally contribute something to society. Maybe each time they use a urinal instead of their coat pocket, it could give them a nickel. Of course then the robot would just proceed to usher the vagrant out of the public restroom when they proceed to lay down for a sleep.

Re:Great news for the homeless (2)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 5 months ago | (#45386085)

Maybe each time they use a urinal instead of their coat pocket, it could give them a nickel.

Yes, it always has struck me as odd that in some places (Belgium...) you need to pay when you pee. But you leave something there, so they should be paying you, not the other way round...

evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385225)

And then some hacker builds self-reproducing rape-robots that feed of peoples' pee.

Re:evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385253)

frequently lurking in public lavatories

Curse you, Nintendo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385409)

You jerks beat us to the perfect name: Wii.

EcoBots: Piss on You (Remix) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385569)

Wonder if R. Kelly will be their Director of Creative Innovation?

Here I was sitting at the computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385991)

Here I was, sitting at the computer, minding my own business reading /. Then bam! I get this novel idea! You go down to the bar, and instead of just renting it, you tell the bar wench "Hey baby, I'm not just slamming brewskies, I'm making robot fuel!" However you might get tossed on your ass if you include the line: "Wanna handle the discharge unit?" But it makes you wonder what these Wizz-ards will come up with next.

Why don't they make semen-powered robots instead.. (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 5 months ago | (#45386067)

... and design them so that they autonomously can get their fuel happily from the source!

Re:Why don't they make semen-powered robots instea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45386555)

Those already exist. That's called female.

Self-preservation and urine harvesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45386419)

So the robots will need urine to "survive"...
Pair that with artificial intelligence and self-preservation... and these robots will strive to fetch/gather/harvest urine themselves.

Humans produce what is needed for the robots to survive...

This could just as well been human flesh eating robots.

Shit Powered Robots Next (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | about 5 months ago | (#45386527)

Okay, plenty of piss oriented jokes here already. Now someone needs to come up with one that is shit powered, so we can revive the stupid kid joke about Artoo-Doodoo.

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