Artificial gills for robots

Artificial gills for robots

Making the case for artificial gills onboard autonomous robots for marine environments.

This work looks at the possibility of using microbial fuel cell (MFC) power generation technology underwater. In this way, one could envisage organic matter used as the biomass ‘fuel’ for the bacteria and oxygen used in an aqueous cathode. In some ways, the latter can be likened to an artificial gill.

The aim of the present study was primarily to repeat and empirically confirm the results of previous workers reporting on the aqueous O2-diffusion cathode. It would then be possible to make the case for artificial gills onboard autonomous robots for marine environments, using our own results. We refer to such a cathodic half-cell as an ‘aqueous oxygenated cathode’ as distinct from the ‘atmospheric oxygenated cathode’ currently employed in robots such as EcoBot-II.

Water flow and temperature

In this study, we have experimented with aqueous oxygen (O2)-diffusion cathode MFCs running in continuous hydration flow. The electrical power from these devices increased proportionately both with water flow rate and temperature:

  • a power increase of 175% was recorded for a corresponding temperature increase (ΔT) of 37˚C
  • a power increase ranging from 75-100% was observed as a result of doubling the water flow rate.

Both these findings can be advantageous in the design of underwater autonomous robots.

Theme Leader

Contact Address

Bristol BioEnergy Centre
Bristol Robotics Laboratory
University of the West of England
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol, BS16 1QY

Page last updated 14 August 2014