Venus Fly Trap-Like Robots Eat Bugs and Could Use Them for Energy

BotheredByBees/CC BY 2.0

When it comes to advancing technology, scientists are turning more and more often to nature for answers. Mimicking how animals and plants move, eat and gather energy, they're pushing the limits of what humans can make and do. In a spectacular example, two recently created robot prototypes have technology to procure their own energy by catching and eating insects, just like a Venus fly trap.

The first, developed by Dr. Mohsen Shahinpoor of the University of Maine, is made from a material he invented that mimics muscle function. When a fly lands in between two sheets of the material, it generates a small amount of voltage, triggering sensors that cause the mock carnivorous plant to slam shut.

A team at Seoul National University in South Korea led by Seung-Won Kim took a different approach. A piece of carbon fiber shaped like the Venus fly trap is set on a spring; the weight of an insect makes it close.

But now that we have robots that can successfully eat insects, what's the next step? New Scientist refers us to a third party technology, the Ecobot, designed by the Bristol Robotics Lab:

[It's] a robot that can digest insects, food scraps and sewage to power itself. Ecobot uses bacteria to break down a fly's exoskeleton in a reaction that liberates electrons into a circuit, generating electricity.

Now the trick is combining the fly trap robots' abilities to catch insects and the Ecobot's ability to derive energy from them.

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Tags: Biomimicry | Energy | Insects

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