Methanol-Powered Robot Muscles - Bend It Like Bender

Alcohol-powered artificial muscles for robots? They could be one way to solve the limits that batteries place on robotic limbs and prosthetics.

Univesity of Texas research nanotechnologist Ray Baughman remarks "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."


(Bender Bending Rodriguez, alcohol-drinking robot)

It turns out that we've already been there in imagination. Matt Groening's cool 1999-2003 series Futurama features Bender (full name: Bender Bending Rodriguez), a Unit 22 Bending Unit born in a factory in Tijuana, Mexico. Bender attended Bending State college, where he majored in Bending and minored in Robo-American studies. Sadly, his father was killed by a can opener.

Bender requires the chemical energy from alcohol, so he drinks to maintain proper function. Sober, he loses control of his body. His favorite drink? Olde Fortran Malt liquor.

The alchohol-consuming muscle of Baughman's real-life research is made from nickel-titanium shape-memory wire coated in a platinum catalyst. When fumes of methanol, hydrogen and oxygen pass over the platinum coating, they react, releasing heat that warms the wire, making it contract. When the flow of fuel is stopped, the wire expands and returns to its original length. The wire muscle can generate 100 times the force of a natural muscle of the same size, says Baughman.

As a bonus, the muscle itself is the fuel cell; it is hoped that this will be particularly useful in medical prosthetics applications.

Ray Baughman is Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and Director of NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas in Dallas. He holds 52 patents.

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.

Interested in artificial muscles and internal power sources? Read about the Musclebot - the microrobot with a heart and the smallest implantable body battery. Find out more about methanol-powered muscles; read more about Futurama's Bender. Thanks to alert reader BajaB for the tip on this story. (Remember, you too can contribute story tips and technovelgy items.)

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/17/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...' - Abraham Merritt, 1920.

Digit V2 Bipedal Robot From Agility Robotics
Oh, and now I suppose someone will develop the robotic porch pirate.

Hail SmartCan! Your Trash Bin Takes Itself Out
'...a waste can twenty feet away stirred into life.' - Harry Harrison, 1959.

Robot Tuna Swims As Fast As Nature's Tuna
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.' - Michael Swanwick, 2002.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Unsinkable Metal Latest Gates Obsession
'A metal... light as cork.'

M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...'

NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.'

Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'

Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...'

Vascularized Human Skin 3D Printed
Hey Fishboy!

Trillionaires Still Earth-Bound
'I shall never forget the sight... when the yellow gleam of the precious metal appeared under the star dust.'

Digit V2 Bipedal Robot From Agility Robotics
Oh, and now I suppose someone will develop the robotic porch pirate.

3D Printed Dubai Building Is World's Largest
'This thing will start at one end of ...a house and build it complete to the other end, following drawings only.'

Grow Plants On Moon Or Mars!
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.'

California Gets Shockwave Rider-Style Avoidance Zones
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'

Microbot Interstellar von Neumann Explorers
'Evidently they have never had a planet of their own...'

Hail SmartCan! Your Trash Bin Takes Itself Out
'...a waste can twenty feet away stirred into life.'

Finally! Microsoft Surface Neo And Surface Duo Implement Excellent Courier Idea
'Runcible, whose pages were thicker and more densely packed with computational machinery...'

Tap Strap 2 Now With Air Mouse
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'

Legal Profession Now Fairly Bristling With AI
'The virtual counsel appeared to be about forty-five years old and prosperous.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.