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Title: An energetically autonomous artificial organism
Author: Philamore, Hemma
ISNI:       0000 0004 5917 3467
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2016
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A key environmental concern in the 21st century is polluted water, requiring monitoring or remediation, often in locations which are hazardous, expansive, or difficult to reach. Robots capable of long term autonomous operation with the ability to tackle these environmental challenges are in great need. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are an emerging technology for water decontamination and electricity generation which convert biodegradable matter found in waterways, including pollutants such as algae and petrochemicals, to usable electrical power. As such MFCs present a promising, bioinspired power source for remotely operating robots, particularly where the use of more established energy-scavenging technologies is limited. One of the greatest challenges in environmental robotics is to develop machines with the compliance and adaptability that equips natural organisms for unassisted survival in uncertain and changeable surroundings. The emergence of mechanisms that closely mimic biological organisms is prevalent in state of the art research and can advance MFC powered robots by enabling them to to forage for food and locomote biomimetically. Artificial muscles with low mass and high efficiency, including electro-active polymers, are well suited to the low voltage, relatively low power, output of MFCs. This thesis presents these complementary technologies in the design of a biomimetic, energy-autonomous artificial organism capable of long term, unassisted operation. We consider artificial muscles powered by artificial metabolism in an investigation that covers three objectives: • Design of systems comprising soft ionically and electronically active polymers that may be used for both power generation in MFCs and soft actuation. • Driving bio-inspired actuation within the energy budget defined by the output of a single MFC, thereby improving the effective fusion of MFCs and soft robotics. • Showing energy autonomy through the integration of these technologies in a swimming, artificial organism, powered by an artificial digestive system and exploiting soft robotic actuation. The presented artificial organism has demonstrated feasibly application in self-powered environmental monitoring and clean-up of polluted waterways. The study shows a crucial step in the development of bio-inspired autonomous robots capable of long term self-sustainability and presents significant scope for future development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available