Science

Water robots may be US' solution to its increased electricity dependence

By | Nov 26, 2015 02:11 PM EST
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rowbot

Developed by a team of academics at Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), the row-bot is designed to operate indefinitely by sourcing its energy from the environment.

The United States' electric power grid is one of the country's most crucial infrastructure based on Americans' increased electric consumption. It serves as the medium of electric transmission from power plants to distribution lines and finally, to end users.

In recent years, America's electric consumption reflected a seesaw of figures in different aspects such as the source of energy, interdependence of the power sector and other services, and technological advancements.

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Water as energy source

New breed of inventions are about to direct America's power generation source to a whole new level. Robots that can refuel through water and a technology that allows refueling through hydrogen, a component of water, are on their way to the international market.  

A valuable hydro-invention is Aqua Power Systems (OTCQB: APSI) fuel cell technology. Its patented Realistic Magnesium Air Fuel System (RMAF) is capable of generating electricity from magnesium, oxygen and saltwater electrolyte.

Aqua Power's product pipeline gears towards the production of an alternative renewable energy source with no emissions.

Another emerging invention is a prototype robot capable of recharging itself through water. Developed by a team of academics at Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), the row-bot is designed to operate indefinitely by sourcing its energy from the environment.

"When it is hungry the Row-bot opens its soft robotic mouth and rows forward to fill its microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach with nutrient-rich dirty water. It then closes its mouth and slowly digests the nutrients. The MFC stomach uses the bio-degradation of organic matter to generate electricity using bio-inspired mechanisms," Phys Org reported.

Experts said that the work shows an engineering feat in term of robots capable of long-term self-power.

The row-bot mechanisms mimic that of the water boatman insect that feeds on algae and dead plants. The prototype robot does the same by swallowing water, even dirty water, to recharge itself.

"We anticipate that the Row-bot will be used in environmental clean-up operations of contaminants, such as oil spills and harmful algal bloom," research co-author Hemma Philamore said.

U.S. power sources

The United States generates electricity from a series of power generators like steam, fossil fuels, nuclear and other renewable energy sources.

The country's electricity is mostly produced from steam turbines. The main idea in this energy source is converting kinetic energy into a potent mechanical energy that produces electricity.

In 2014, 39 percent of the total kilowatt hours used in the country was generated from coal while 27 percent was from natural gas. There are several sources from which hot combustion gases can be produced like petroleum, residual fuel oil, and petroleum coke.

Nuclear power, on the other hand, covers one-fifth of the U.S electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration, 19 percent of all electricity in the country was generated from nuclear power. Nuclear power plants in the country are mostly located east of the Mississippi River.

Renewable energy comprises 13 percent of the country's electric source. Other power sources include renewable energy that is composed of several types-wind power, biomass, geothermal, solar and hydropower.

Understanding America's electric consumption

About two years ago, EIA recorded a total of 3,831 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of the country's electric consumption, a figure that is 13 times higher than what was consumed in the 1950s.

Basically, electricity is needed in daily domestic activities, huge telecommunication systems, transport, business and emergency services. The series of technological advances like mobile devices and the internet also increased America's dependence on electricity.

In an EIA report, "Annual Energy Outlook 2015," a 0.3 percent increase in carbon emission was recorded due to the increased electric consumption resulting to the growing number of data centers, electronic devices and networking equipment.

Although short term energy outlook projects lower energy consumption from heating by 8 percent, America's electricity usage has shifted to the use of mobile phones. This in turn creates a national need to reassess America's power source generation through hydrogen.

The U.S Department of Energy announced its Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program in support of finding renewable energy sources. This hydrogen fuel cell initiative supports the research and development of hydrogen fuel cell technologies.


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