27 March 2006

Robot fuel

“One day you could find yourself sitting in a bar next to a humanoid robot, who is taking a shot of vodka to give himself the energy to go to work”, says Ray Baughman, a nanotechnologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, in the 25 March edition of New Scientist.

He’s talking about self-powered artificial muscles he has developed that could be used in robotic and prosthetic limbs, in a report by Zeeya Merali. A mixture of oxygen and methanol or hydrogen is passed over the platinum coating of a nickel-titanium wire, which catalyses a reaction between the gases. This releases heat, which warms the wire and makes it contract. When the fuel stops and it cools, it returns to its previous shape. The wire muscle exerts 100 times the force of a natural muscle of the same size, according to Baughman.

The problem is how to deliver the fuel to the muscle. Someone should send Ray Baughman a DVD of Matt Groening’s series ‘Futurama’, featuring the appropriately named robot Bender who requires the chemical energy from alcohol to be able to function properly. Excessive drinking is necessary or he will become sober and unable to control his body.

If they manage to build one of these robots, I just hope they program it to say “Bite my shiny metal ass!”


I am the Queen of F*%&ING EVERYTHNG...OK!! said...

Hmmm not a big fan or Goering, his malfunctioning families or his robotic fantasies, just not of interest...but robotic limb replacememnt would be wonderous.
PS I tagged you or are you ignoring it??

cookie wonton said...

Groening is a genius, and Futurama is, I think, his best work. There are so many wonderful parallels to the non-cartoon world, but they're done with such a twisted imaginative simplicity.