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Off planet energy source? Think small

Electron microscope image of the microbe, Geobacter sulfurreducens, the core of the microbial fuel cell-based system. (NRL photo)

That’s what the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) is doing these days.

Integrating the NRL developed technologies in microrobotics, microbial fuel cells, and low power electronics, space robotics scientist Dr. Gregory P. Scott at NRL’s Spacecraft Engineering Department inspires a novel autonomous microrover, weighing in at nearly one-kilogram and powered by an advanced microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology.

“The goal is to demonstrate a more efficient and reliable energy source for use in powering small robotic vehicles in environments where the option for human intervention is non-existent,” said Scott. “Microbial fuel cells coupled with extremely low-power electronics and a low energy requirement for mobility addresses gaps in power technology applicable to all robotic systems, especially planetary robotics.”

This research is still in its early days, but it’s a new way to approach the problem of powering equipment far from home.

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