Microbial Fuel Cells for Robotics: Energy Autonomy through Artificial Symbiosis

Authors

  • Dr. Ioannis A. Ieropoulos,

    Corresponding author
    1. Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering, Design & Mathematics, University of the West of England, Bristol, T-Building, Frenchay Campus, BS16 1QY, Bristol (UK), Fax: (+44) 1173283960
    • Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering, Design & Mathematics, University of the West of England, Bristol, T-Building, Frenchay Campus, BS16 1QY, Bristol (UK), Fax: (+44) 1173283960
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  • Prof. John Greenman,

    1. Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering, Design & Mathematics, University of the West of England, Bristol, T-Building, Frenchay Campus, BS16 1QY, Bristol (UK), Fax: (+44) 1173283960
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  • Prof. Chris Melhuish,

    1. Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering, Design & Mathematics, University of the West of England, Bristol, T-Building, Frenchay Campus, BS16 1QY, Bristol (UK), Fax: (+44) 1173283960
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  • Ian Horsfield

    1. Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering, Design & Mathematics, University of the West of England, Bristol, T-Building, Frenchay Campus, BS16 1QY, Bristol (UK), Fax: (+44) 1173283960
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Abstract

The development of the microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology has seen an enormous growth over the last hundred years since its inception by Potter in 1911. The technology has reached a level of maturity that it is now considered to be a field in its own right with a growing scientific community. The highest level of activity has been recorded over the last decade and it is perhaps considered commonplace that MFCs are primarily suitable for stationary, passive wastewater treatment applications. Sceptics have certainly not considered MFCs as serious contenders in the race for developing renewable energy technologies. Yet this is the only type of alternative system that can convert organic waste—widely distributed around the globe—directly into electricity, and therefore, the only technology that will allow artificial agents to autonomously operate in a plethora of environments. This Minireview describes the history and current state-of-the-art regarding MFCs in robotics and their vital role in artificial symbiosis and autonomy. Furthermore, the article demonstrates how pursuing practical robotic applications can provide insights of the core MFC technology in general.

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