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EcoBot-II: An artificial agent with a natural metabolism

Ieropoulos, Ioannis; Melhuish, Chris; Greenman, John; Horsfield, Ian

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Yannis Ieropoulos
Professor in Bioenergy & Director of B-B

Chris Melhuish
Professor of Robotics & Autonomous Systems

Ian Horsfield


In this paper we report the development of the robot EcoBot-II, which exhibits a primitive form of artificial symbiosis. Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) were used as the onboard energy supply, which consisted of bacterial cultures from sewage sludge and employed oxygen from free air for oxidation at the cathode. EcoBot-II was able to perform sensing, information processing, communication and actuation when fed (amongst other substrates) with flies. This is the first robot in the world, to utilise unrefined substrate, oxygen from free air and exhibit four different types of behaviour.


Ieropoulos, I., Melhuish, C., Greenman, J., & Horsfield, I. (2005). EcoBot-II: An artificial agent with a natural metabolism. International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems, 2(4), 295-300.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2005
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2010
Publicly Available Date Feb 20, 2016
Journal International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems
Print ISSN 1729-8806
Publisher SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 4
Pages 295-300
Keywords energy autonomy, microbial fuel cells, artificial symbiosis, oxygen cathodes, sewage sludge
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This paper reports on the results of experiments carried out with the world's first robot to exhibit a crude form of autonomy conducted by a team of roboticists and micro-biologists. This represents a unique original thread of research since it explores the generation of power for a robot from bacterial cultures feeding on unrefined biomass (dead insects) in the anodic chamber with free atmospheric oxygen with the cathode. It has attracted the attention of the national and international media and the London Science Museum. The paper contributed to further European funding to develop a robot capable of ingestion and egestion. The paper is used in the teaching of robotics degree courses and the work will form part of a chapter of a US authored book reviewing MFCs.


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