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Future robots’ heart to be powered by pee instead of blood

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Future robots’ heart to be powered by pee instead of blood
Future robots’ heart to be powered by pee instead of blood

Washington – Researchers have created a new device that is able to pump human waste into the “engine room” of a self-sustaining robot.

Researchers based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory – a joint venture between the University of the West of England and University of Bristol – have created four generations of EcoBots in the past 10 years, each of which is powered by electricity-generating microbial fuel cells that employ live microorganisms to digest waste organic matter and generate low-level power.

In the future, it is believed that EcoBots could be deployed as monitors in areas where there may be dangerous levels of pollution, or indeed dangerous predators, so that little human maintenance is needed.

It has already been shown that these types of robots can generate their energy from rotten fruit and vegetables, dead flies, waste water, sludge and human urine.

The new device, which has an internal volume of 24.5 ml, works in a similar fashion to the human heart by compressing the body of the pump and forcing the liquid out.

This was achieved using “artificial muscles” made from shape memory alloys – a group of smart materials that are able to ‘remember’ their original shape.

When heated with an electric current, the artificial muscles compressed a soft region in the centre of the heart-pump causing the fluid to be ejected through an outlet and pumped to a height that would be sufficient to deliver fluid to an EcoBot’s fuel cells.

The artificial muscles then cooled and returned to their original shape when the electric current was removed, causing the heart-pump to relax and prompting fluid from a reservoir to be drawn in for the next cycle.

A stack of 24 microbial fuel cells fed on urine were able to generate enough electricity to charge a capacitor.

The study has been published in journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

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Washington - An international team of scientists took skin colour measurements from local residents in India to quantify the range and extent of variation in skin pigmentation phenotype and found that one of the important pigmentation genes; SLC24A5, plays a key role in skin pigmentation variation among South Asians. The comprehensive map of the genetic variant associated with light skin further revealed that it is quite wide spread in the subcontinent. “It was interesting to see that the effect of geographical, linguistic, socio-cultural boundaries further shaped by strict endogamy which forms the backbone of the South Asian genetic diversity was so strongly reflected in the complex patterning of this light skin allele,” Chandana Basu Mallick, lead author from University of Tartu, Estonia explained. She said that this study helps in understanding the other possible mechanisms that could have contributed in shaping the existing biological spectrum of human skin colour besides natural selection driven by UV rays and in further understanding of this complex phenotypic trait. Another element of the study involved resequencing of SLC24A5 using diverse set of samples which helped to unveil an important fact; that Indians share the same mutation of SLC24A5 for their light skin as Europeans and belong to the same haplotype background. Mircea Iliescu, co-lead author from the University of Cambridge said that the variable presence of this light skin mutation across India suggests an intriguing interplay between the forces of natural selection and the unique demographic history and structure of the populations inhabiting the Indian subcontinent. This study also provides the first comprehensive estimate of the coalescence time of this allele, which is crucial in the understanding of the evolutionary history of light skin in humans. The study is published in PloS Genetics.

Skin colour variation in Indians linked to genetic diversity

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