Over time, this excess methane has exacerbated the dramatic warming we’re seeing in the arctic and oceans.
Methane can also be useful, however, especially when trapped and used as fuel to produce electricity. In fact, many feel that our stinking landfills could actually be converted into methane power plants, if only we new how to harvest them efficiently. Well, the answer to that problem could come in the form of a little machine called Gasbot.
So far, the team from Örebro’s AASS Research Centre has been able to assemble a working prototype using a Clearpath Robotics Husky A200 mobile robot that’s been outfitted with a pair of laser scanners, a GPS, and a remote gas sensor [pdf].
The idea is that Gasbot could be unleashed in a landfill or a underground tunnel for natural gas, and it would be able to build up a map of methane concentrations and locations.
“The robot has already been tested in a decommissioned landfill, as well as in an underground tunnel where it was used to localize a leaking gas pipe,” reports IEEE Spectrum. “In both cases, Gasbot was successful, but there’s still a bunch of work to be done before it’ll be able to take over from humans. Specifically, it needs to get better at localizing, it has to be able to robustly traverse obstacles like you might find in a real landfill, and it also needs to be able to operate over a several square kilometer area by itself over the course of days or weeks.”
And even though it would be nice to spot gas leaks quicker or make use of landfill methane, Gasbot isn’t a silver bullet for stopping global warming. We’d need a much bigger robot, with much bigger lasers (aimed at every industrial polluter in the world) to do that.