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New technology lets robots consume metal to gain energy

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Source: University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science

A team of researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science has developed a technology that allows robots to “eat” metal to gain energy. Dubbed as the “metal air scavenger” (MAS), the technology works like a battery and harvester in one by breaking and forming a series of chemical bonds in metals found in the environment to power up the robot. The team also says that using MAS results in a power source that has 13 times more energy density than typical lithium-ion batteries.

Source: University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science

“Our MAS has a power density that’s ten times better than the best harvesters, to the point that we can compete against batteries,” Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics assistant professor James Pikul said. “As we get robots that are more intelligent and more capable, we no longer have to restrict ourselves to plugging them into a wall. One day, a robot that needs to recharge its batteries will just need to find some aluminum to ‘eat’ with a MAS, which would give it enough power to for it work until its next meal” he added.

Unlike batteries that increase in weight and size in order to provide certain amounts of energy, MAS can produce energy without the associated weight. He also assures that there’s very little risk of significant structural damage on the metal being scavenged using MAS technology because oxidation only occurs within 100 microns of the surface. For more information on MAS technology, the researchers published a study about its capabilities in the journal ACS Energy Letters.

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