A new type of rechargeable zinc battery could be used to provide robots with greater power without consuming as much space, scientists claim.
Current batteries are too big and inefficient, especially for smaller robotic technologies such as drones which need to be as light as possible, but a team at the University of Michigan have found a way to make them more viable by looking outside.
By placing their batteries on the exterior, the group found their development acted in a similar fashion to how biological fat reserves store energy in animals, carrying out the double duty of storing charge and protecting the robot’s “organs”.
They estimate that their research could boost robots with 72 times more power capacity if their exteriors were replaced with zinc batteries, instead of using a single lithium ion battery.
It is also made with cheap and largely non-toxic materials, meaning the battery is more environmentally friendly than those currently used.
“Robot designs are restricted by the need for batteries that often occupy 20% or more of the available space inside a robot, or account for a similar proportion of the robot’s weight,” said Nicholas Kotov, professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, who led the research, published in the Science Robotics journal.
“We don’t have a single sac of fat, which would be bulky and require a lot of costly energy transfer.
“Distributed energy storage, which is the biological way, is the way to go for highly efficient biomorphic devices.”