Fuel Powered Muscles For Robots

Humanoid robots are powered mostly by batteries these days, but if Ray Baughman, director of the NanoTech Institute at UT Dallas, has his way, robots may have muscles powered by high-density fuel.

Just as we convert our fuel – food – into chemical energy, Baughman envisions a future where a shot of high-density fuel will reinvigorate a robot’s energy.

These robot muscles are made on the nanoscale — the artificial muscles are made of very thin wires that are coated with nano particles.

Baughman said the nano fuels can store 30 times more energy than batteries, and it can make the artificial muscles up to 500 times stronger than human muscles.

Researchers have been working in this area for several years; technology that first appeared in computer chip fabrication may prove valuable.

To compress more power into smaller volumes, researchers have begun to build fuel cells on the fuzzy frontier of nanotechnology. Silicon etching, evaporation, and other processes borrowed from chip manufacturers have been used to create tightly packed channel arrays to guide the flow of fuel through the cell. The point is to pack a large catalytic surface area into a wafer-thin volume. This approach is not only expensive, but inherently limited by its two-dimensional nature.

An early sfnal look at fuel-powered robots can be found in the 1989 novel Weapon by Robert Mason. In the story, a military android named Solo is intended to replace human soldiers in battle. Solo's powerful muscles allow it to perform feats of strength, speed and endurance.


(Solo movie poster)

Update 19-Oct-2011: Martin Caidin specifically uses this term in his 1972 novel Cyborg, which was the basis for the film Six Million Dollar Man; see the entry for artificial muscles. End update.

Via EarthSky and Physorg. Thanks to Moira for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/16/2008)

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