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MEAM Seminar: “Metallivore Robots Powered by Aluminum-air Batteries”

July 9 at 10:15 AM - 11:15 AM

Mobile robots have shown significant advancements in agility, intelligence, and efficiency over the past few decades. However, their endurance and overall performance remain limited by the onboard power supplies. Current power sources typically restrict mobile robots to areas close to the electrical grid and necessitate heavier batteries for extended range. Energy refueling could be significantly challenging in remote and inaccessible regions, and traditional energy harvesting methods have also proven inadequate for sustaining continuous operations. To address this challenge, we propose an alternative approach: enabling robots to “digest” energy-dense metals to generate power, analogous to how animals consume food. This concept is based on the working principle of an aluminum-air battery, which operates like a small chemical plant converting aluminum into electricity. This method could dramatically reduce the trade-off between endurance and battery weight, thus unleashing new potential for mobile robotics. This talk will begin by quantifying the energy gap between mobile robots and their biological counterparts based on a comparative analysis of their energy density and power density. I will then highlight our recent progress in developing metallivore robots, particularly addressing how we have overcome various challenges associated with conventional aluminum-air batteries, such as byproduct accumulation, hydrogen production, and water consumption. Lastly, I will showcase our development of a highly stretchable metal-air battery using sliding electrodes, making it ideal for integration into soft robotics.

Yichao Shi

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania

Yichao Shi is advised by James Pikul.


July 9
10:15 AM - 11:15 AM
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Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics
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Room 337, Towne Building
220 South 33rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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