One of the biggest problems for robots is storing energy. This is not a problem for the typical industrial robot, which spends its life securely tethered to a power source. But trying to get robots to move around can be a huge issue. Storing energy in batteries can mean taking up way too much space with batteries — 20% of the available space, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.
With funding from the Department of Defense, however, the researchers think they’ve found a solution.
Like so many robotics breakthroughs, this one is about biomimicry: copying something observed in living creatures. Specifically, the researchers want to make the robots fat. Or at least give them the chance to store energy much the way animals store fat.
Instead of storing energy in a single battery-like organ, animals (including humans) have fat distributed all over the body.
Instead of one lithium battery, the new robots have zinc batteries distributed through an electrolyte membrane made of carbon-based nanofibres and a water-based polymer gel. The new style of battery also protects the internal structures of the robots, just as fat does in living creatures.
The result is a big improvement — 72 times the energy storage is possible, the researchers believe.
Since the process uses cheap, abundant, nontoxic materials, the eventual benefits could include greater sustainability as well as reduced energy use and increased opportunities for robots.
Uses so far
At this point, the new technology has been used with toys: robotic worms and scorpions, to be specific.
However, this could end up solving an ongoing problem that has limited robotic mobility so far.
Whether you want robots to travel around the factory or to stay in place and be productive, Rexroth motion control systems are likely to be part of your plan. If you need service or support for Rexroth electric industrial motion control systems, we can help.
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