Towards enduring autonomous robots via embodied energy – Nature.com

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Nature volume 602pages 393–402 (2022)
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Autonomous robots comprise actuation, energy, sensory and control systems built from materials and structures that are not necessarily designed and integrated for multifunctionality. Yet, animals and other organisms that robots strive to emulate contain highly sophisticated and interconnected systems at all organizational levels, which allow multiple functions to be performed simultaneously. Herein, we examine how system integration and multifunctionality in nature inspires a new paradigm for autonomous robots that we call Embodied Energy. Whereas most untethered robots use batteries to store energy and power their operation, recent advancements in energy-storage techniques enable chemical or electrical energy sources to be embodied directly within the structures and materials used to create robots, rather than requiring separate battery packs. This perspective highlights emerging examples of Embodied Energy in the context of developing autonomous robots.
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The authors thank the Office of Naval Research, grant no. N00014-20-1-2438, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, grant no. FA9550-20-1-0254, and the National Science Foundation, grant no. EFMA-1830924.
These authors contributed equally: Cameron A. Aubin, Jennifer A. Lewis, Robert F. Shepherd
Sibley School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
Cameron A. Aubin & Robert F. Shepherd
John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Benjamin Gorissen & Jennifer A. Lewis
Department of Mechanical Engineering, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Benjamin Gorissen & Edoardo Milana
Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, USA
Philip R. Buskohl
Energy and Biotechnology Division, Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, MD, USA
Nathan Lazarus
Autonomous Systems Division, Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, MD, USA
Geoffrey A. Slipher
Robotic Materials Department, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, Germany
Christoph Keplinger
Department of Computer Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA
Josh Bongard
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Fumiya Iida
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R.F.S. and J.A.L. conceived of the concept. C.A.A., J.A.L. and R.F.S. drafted key elements of the manuscript. C.A.A. researched, collected and analysed data. C.A.A., B.G. and E.M. drafted figures. P.R.B., N.L., G.A.S., C.K., J.B. and F.I. assisted in editing and refining the vision.
Correspondence to Robert F. Shepherd.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Nature thanks Milo Shaffer and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Aubin, C.A., Gorissen, B., Milana, E. et al. Towards enduring autonomous robots via embodied energy. Nature 602, 393–402 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04138-2
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Received: 17 February 2021
Accepted: 14 October 2021
Published: 16 February 2022
Issue Date: 17 February 2022
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04138-2
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