Gale E.,University of the West of England |
Gale E.,Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Semiconductor Science and Technology | Year: 2014
The memristor is the fundamental nonlinear circuit element, with uses in computing and computer memory. Resistive Random Access Memory (ReRAM) is a resistive switching memory proposed as a non-volatile memory. In this review we shall summarize the state of the art for these closely-related fields, concentrating on titanium dioxide, the well-utilized and archetypal material for both. We shall cover material properties, switching mechanisms and models to demonstrate what ReRAM and memristor scientists can learn from each other and examine the outlook for these technologies. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd. Source
News Article | November 23, 2015
This Row-bot doesn't like to go gently down the stream. Encountering filth and sewage is its form of merrily achieving life's dreams. In fact, it thrives on pollution — the more, the merrier. The Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of Bristol has developed the Row-bot autonomous swimming robot with the aim of ridding the water of pollutants and other dangerous contaminants. The Row-bot is equipped with a microbial fuel cell stomach that allows it to digest dirty water before using the bio-degradation of organic matter to generate electricity via bio-inspired mechanisms. That same electrical energy keeps the Row-bot propelling as it continues its efforts. Not only does the Row-bot mark a success for self-powering robots, but it's also a victory for autonomous cleaning. "The work shows a crucial step in the development of autonomous robots capable of long-term self-power," Jonathan Rossiter, professor of robotics at the University of Bristol and BRL, said as part of the University's announcement. "Most robots require recharging or refueling, often requiring human involvement." Hemma Philamore, Ph.D. student at the University of Bristol's BRL, said, "We anticipate that the Row-bot will be used in environmental clean-up operations of contaminants, such as oil spills and harmful algal bloom, and in long term autonomous environmental monitoring of hazardous environments, for example those hit by natural and man-made disasters." Imagine what a fleet of these Row-bots could do spread apart in a massive body of water, especially during unforeseen drastic circumstances such as those to which Philamore alluded.
News Article | August 25, 2015
With an estimated 11.4 million amputees worldwide, a Bristol-based 3D printing company, Open Bionics, says that it can scan an amputee and build (or rather, print) a custom-fitted prosthetic forearm and hand in less than two days. That's super fast, given that current prosthetic models on the market take weeks or even months to develop. Founder Joel Gibbard's company also just won the James Dyson Award, recognizing young and talented engineers in the UK, and plans to start selling his prosthetics by next year. The prize money included a £2,220 ($3,485 USD) reward and a chance to compete for an international title worth £28,600 ($45,000 USD). For Gibbard, it's all about cost-effectiveness and speed of production. A focus on both is what he feels will give his product a competitive advantage. "We have a device at the lower-end of the pricing scale and upper end of functionality," he tells BBC. "At the same time it is very lightweight and it can be customized for each person." The 25-year-old inventor describes the hand as a skeleton with a customizable skin on top of it. Other prosthetic hands with finger mobility usually run up to about £20,000 ($31,394 USD) and £60,000 ($94,181 USD), but Gibbard is looking to charge customers only £2,000 ($3,140 USD), including the cost of fitting. This is also good news for families with children who might need the device but can't afford the exorbitant cost, as they'd otherwise have to constantly buy new prosthetics for their growing bodies. So, how does this device work, and why is it so cheap in comparison to its potential competitors? For starters, the Open Bionics prosthetic device was birthed out of an Indiegogo crowdfunding project supported by Bristol Robotics Laboratory in 2013 as an open source initiative for making accessible and affordable robot prosthetic hands for amputees. It raised £43,593 ($68,428 USD) in a month's time with the support of over 1,000 funders. The hand itself utilizes myoelectric signals to detect muscle movements via sensors attached to the owner's skin. It uses these to control their grip. The device detects the flexing of muscles on the forearm to open and close the grip of the hand, with a double flex to form a pinch grip. The technology isn't advanced enough yet for the owners to sense and feel what they're touching, but the sensors do detect the pressure exerted to interact with an object. What this means is that the owner can hold and use fragile objects like eggs without breaking them. Naturally, however, because of the decreased costs, there is also a compromise on design and engineering. "We are testing [the device] with users and household objects and trying to come to a compromise that means it is very affordable and still has enough power to do most of the stuff that people want," Gibbard says. The design for the device has been revised over 10 times, and the number of moving parts has been removed significantly. This is part of the reason why they're quick and easy to put together — a user can be sized up in a matter of minutes, and then, all the necessary parts can be 3D-printed within 40 hours. Although the current design can only help amputees with limb loss to their forearms, Gibbard and his team's ultimate goal is to provide inexpensive prosthetics to amputees with other needs as well. This, however, is still a ways down the road.
A new kind of fuel cell that can turn urine into electricity could revolutionize the way we produce bioenergy, particularly in developing countries. The research, published in Electrochimica Acta, describes a new design of microbial fuel cell that's smaller, cheaper and more powerful than traditional ones. The world's supply of fossil fuels is being depleted, and there is increasing pressure to develop new renewable sources of energy. Bioenergy is one such source, and microbial fuel cells can produce it. In their study, researchers from University of Bath, Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory describe a new design of microbial fuel cell that overcomes two limitations of standard microbial fuel cells: their cost and low power production. "Microbial fuel cells have real potential to produce renewable bioenergy out of waste matter like urine," said Mirella Di Lorenzo, corresponding author of the study from the University of Bath who holds a doctorate in Industrial Biotechnology. "The world produces huge volumes of urine and if we can harness the potential power of that waste using microbial fuel cells, we could revolutionize the way we make electricity." Microbial fuel cells are devices that use the natural processes of certain bacteria to turn organic matter into electricity. There are other ways of producing bioenergy, including anaerobic digestion, fermentation and gasification. But microbial fuel cells have the advantage of working at room temperature and pressure. They're efficient, relatively cheap to run and produce less waste than the other methods. There are, however, some limitations. Microbial fuel cells can be quite expensive to manufacture. The electrodes are usually made of cost-effective materials, but the cathode often contains platinum to speed up the reactions that create the electricity. Also, microbial fuel cells tend to produce less power than the other methods of bioenergy production. The new miniature microbial fuel cell uses no expensive materials for the cathode; instead it's made of carbon cloth and titanium wire. To speed up the reaction and create more power, it uses a catalyst that's made of glucose and ovalbumin, a protein found in egg white. These are typical constituents of food waste. "We aim to test and prove the use of carbon catalysts derived from various food wastes as a renewable and low-cost alternative to platinum at the cathode," said corresponding author Dr. Mirella Di Lorenzo from the University of Bath. They then tweaked the design to see what would produce more power. Doubling the length of the electrodes, from 4mm to 8mm, increased the power output tenfold. By stacking up three of the miniature microbial fuel cells, the researchers were able to increase the power tenfold compared to the output of individual cells. "Microbial fuel cells could be a great source of energy in developing countries, particularly in impoverished and rural areas," said Jon Chouler, lead author of the study from the University of Bath. "Our new design is cheaper and more powerful than traditional models. Devices like this that can produce electricity from urine could make a real difference by producing sustainable energy from waste." "We have shown that the cell design has an incidence on performance and we want to further investigate the relevance of electrode surface area to volume ratio on performance. Our aim is to be able to effectively miniaturize the MFC and scale-up power production by generating compact batteries of multiple miniature units," added Dr. Di Lorenzo.
Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to researchers who work tirelessly to further technology not simply for profit or fame, but to better the world around them. This is especially true when their inventions are as impressive as the Row-bot. The tiny robot pictured at the top of this page isn’t some cute little children’s toy parents will need to fight their way through crowds to purchase this coming holiday season. It’s a scientific breakthrough that could have a dramatic impact on the environment. MUST SEE: Every single major Black Friday 2015 ad we’ve seen so far First presented last month at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Hamburg, Germany, the Row-bot is a essentially a fuel cell powered by electricity that is generated solely by bacteria living inside the device. The beauty of this particular bacteria-powered fuel cell, however, is the means by which the tiny organisms living in its gut generate that electricity. The Row-bot has four tiny buoyant stabilizers for feet and two paddles that extend from the middle of its body. While the feet keep Row-bot afloat, the paddles send it skimming across the surface of a body of water. The device takes water into a cavity in its housing as it moves, where electrogenic bacteria digest pollutants found within the water. The byproducts of that digestion are carbon dioxide and electricity, which in turn fuels the Row-bot and keeps it moving. Row-bot is the brainchild of a team of researchers from the University of Bristol, Bristol BioEnergy Centre and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, all located in Bristol, England. “We present a design for an energetically autonomous artificial organism, combining two subsystems; a bioinspired energy source and bio-inspired actuation,” the researchers wrote in a paper covering their work on Row-bot. “The work is the first demonstration of energetically autonomy in a microbial fuel cell (MFC)-powered, swimming robot taking energy from it’s surrounding, aqueous environment. In contrast to previous work using stacked MFC power sources, the Row-bot employs a single microbial fuel cell as an artificial stomach and uses commercially available voltage step-up hardware to produce usable voltages.” The team continued, “The energy generated exceeds the energy requirement to complete the mechanical actuation needed to refuel. Energy production and actuation are demonstrated separately with the results showing that the combination of these subsystems will produce closed-loop energetic autonomy. The work shows a crucial step in the development of autonomous robots capable of long term self-power.” Imagine that: A self-driving, self-powered robot fueled by waste that pollutes the Earth. Harvard researchers create insect-sized robot that can both fly and swim Robot swarms will explore the waterways of Venice 'Bionic model' will strut down New York Fashion Week runway with prosthetic arm More from BGR: Best Buy’s full Black Friday 2015 ad posted: Huge TVs, iPhone 6s, consoles and more This article was originally published on BGR.com