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Industrial robots could 'eat metal' to power themselves


A fundamental manufacturing shift is on the horizon, some say. It’s where robots run all elements of our future factories. The machines will operate using brain-copying artificial intelligence and handle not only manufacturing processes, but also supply-chain logistics, planning, and other roles formerly performed by humans.

This vision of the future anticipates an industrial workplace where Internet-connected machines will mimic humans, yet do the jobs more precisely, faster and cheaper than humans.

And the human-copying element may not end there. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are suggesting that robots could end up eating like humans, too.

Robots will “eat metal for energy,” according to a news article published in Medium. The researchers’ vision for a “metal-air scavenger” could solve one of the quandaries of future IoT-enabled factories. That quandary is how to power a device that moves without adding mass and weight, as one does by adding bulky batteries.

The answer, according to the University of Pennsylvania researchers, is to try to electromechanically forage for energy from the metal surfaces that a robot or IoT device traverses, thus converting material garnered, using a chemical reaction, into power.

“Robots and electronics [would] extract energy from large volumes of energy dense material without having to carry the material on-board,” the researchers say in a paper they’ve published in ACS Energy Letters.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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