June 20 (UPI) -- Robot's still aren't conscious, but now they have blood, thanks to engineers at Cornell University.
Scientists have developed a robotic fish powered by "robot blood." The hydraulic liquid circulatory system allows the robot to use, store and transfer energy.
"In nature we see how long organisms can operate while doing sophisticated tasks. Robots can't perform similar feats for very long," Rob Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, said in a news release. "Our bio-inspired approach can dramatically increase the system's energy density while allowing soft robots to remain mobile for far longer."
The unique hydraulic system powers undulating fan-like fins of the lionfish-inspired robot, helping it glide through its underwater environs. The robot's silicon skin is outfitted with flexible electrodes and an ion separator membrane, which allow the fish to bend and flex.
Beneath the silicon skin lies the vascular system, which is modeled after a flow battery, or redox battery. Redox batteries are made up of a solid anode and highly soluble catholyte. The soluble catholyte stores energy until it is released via a chemical reduction and oxidation reaction -- the redox. The flow battery system inside the fish powers a series of pumps, which move the fins back and forth.
The hydraulic liquid in the circulatory system stores up new energy as the robot moves, energy that can be realized via the flow batteries.
"We want to take as many components in a robot and turn them into the energy system. If you have hydraulic liquids in your robot already, then you can tap into large stores of energy and give robots increased freedom to operate autonomously," Shepherd said.
Researchers suggest their technology -- described this week in the journal Nature -- could be used to power autonomous underwater robots, designed to collect a variety of scientific information.