Steam played the role of electricity in the early days of automation, staying at the bottom of some basic transportation means, such as the steam locomotive. Now steam power is being revived as Robotic Technology Inc. develops the “EATR” as in Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot – basically a robot that can have a meal of gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, etc and biomass, thus never having to be recharged as long as it has some wood sticks around.
Of course, EATR is designed to be used by the army, and despite rumors saying it would even feed on human remains, the company once again specified that it would only eat vegetables (vegetarian robot – huh). “If it’s not on the menu, it’s not going to eat it,” Dr. Bob Finkelstein, president of RTI and a cybernetics expert, said in a press release.
The engine was designed by Cyclone Power Technologies, and is one refined piece of mechanical technology, as it can deliver more torque than an electric motor of the same size. Also, it needs no other lubrication than the water driving its pistons connected to a vertical crankshaft.
The Cyclone engine looks like this (click to enlarge):
Burning fuel the classic way, in an external chamber makes me remember those stirling engines, many of them being redesigned by Dean Kamen the inventor of Segway. The burn can essentially be made cleaner than the one occuring in counter-time, inefficient gasoline engines. Cyclone Power Technologies says they can even put such an engine onto a car being able to be fueled with theoretically anything that burns. The entire working process of Cyclone engine is described here.