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MM: Chain Smoking Robot; Turning Scrap Metal Into Batteries

On this episode of Manufacturing Minute, a robot that chain-smokes cigarettes for science and turning scrap metal into batteries.

Turning Scrap Metal Into Batteries

Researchers from Vanderbilt University believe that common scrap metal could be a key part of the global push for more renewable energy.

Their recent study resulted what they say is the world's first steel-brass battery.

The research team exposed steel and brass — two of the world's most prevalent scrap metals — to a common household chemical and a residential electrical current in a process called anodization.

Anodizing is more commonly used to treat the surface of aluminum, but Vanderbilt engineers discovered that the process created tiny metal oxide networks on the surface of the brass and steel scraps.

The metal oxide, when it reacts with a water-based liquid electrolyte, creates a battery with remarkable speed and efficiency -- using inexpensive and stable materials.

It can store energy like a conventional lead-acid battery and charge as fast as high-performance supercapacitors.

Scientists believe that the system could provide storage for renewable energy while removing waste from junkyards.

The process, however, could also allow eventually allow individuals or communities to build their own batteries entirely.


Could these cheaper, more efficient batteries eventually impact industry as well as energy?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

A Chain-Smoking Robot

Scientists are Harvard’s Wyss Institute just revealed their latest and perhaps coolest project yet: a chain-smoking robot.

You Futurama fans might be conjuring images of the cigar-loving Bender (video below). Fair enough, but this robot was designed to help scientists research the mysteries surrounding intense coughing and lung infections seen in human smokers. It’s also worth mentioning that aside from being a cool build, using this robot is a lot more humane than forcing rats to hang out in smoke-filled boxes for extended periods of time.

So, how does it work? Well, researchers can load as many as 12 cigarettes onto a Gatling-gun style round turret. From there, scientists use an automated lighter and the machine puffs the cigarette as a human would. In fact, the puffing frequency, intervals and intensity can even be changed. Next, the researchers observe what happens as the smoke travels from the machines through a lung airway chip.

This chip contains actual living lung cells and mimics a human airway. Using this “lung on a chip,” scientists can then discern the different reactions between a chip lined with cells from a non-smoker and one with pulmonary disease, for instance.

What do you think about this chain-smoking robot? Could there be a market for using advanced robotics for medical research?

Tweet me your thoughts @MnetNews or answer in the comments section below.

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