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Methanol fuel cells could power robot limbs

Marc Perton

Researchers have successfully created artificial muscles powered by methanol rather than batteries, opening the door to the possibility of fuel-cell powered artificial limbs that could be used both as prosthetics and in robots. Among the techniques being used is a system that relies on a combination of methanol, hydrogen and oxygen gases that warm wires, causing them to contract. By regulating the flow of fuel, the expanding and contracting wire could be used to control the movement of an artificial limb. And the source of the fuel could come from some surprising places, according to one nanotechnologist: "One day you could find yourself sitting in a bar next to a humanoid robot, who is taking a shot of vodka to give himself the energy to go to work," said Ray Baughman, of the University of Texas at Dallas. If that's the case, we assume it won't be long until we see robots panhandling on street corners, chugging 40s in parking lots and building homemade stills out of their own spare parts, just to give themselves one more boost of energy.

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