This robot sweats to keep cool

Just like human muscles, the motors that drive a humanoid robot generate a lot of heat. But unlike humans, robots haven’t had the chance to evolve cooling mechanisms like sweat—until now.

A robot built by the University of Tokyo tackles the problem of overheating by sweating water through its metal frame. This allows the robot to keep its slim, humanoid frame while taking on tasks that would have previously burnt out its motors, according to IEEE Spectrum. In tests, the robot could perform pushups for 11 minutes continuously.

The robot, named Kengoro, actually seeps water through its solid aluminum frame. By 3D printing the frame, the team was able to vary the density of the metal; grooves in the metal were made much less dense, so water could seep through. This technique makes the water fill the porous metal as if it were a sponge, where it then evaporates to cool the surrounding components.

Kengoro is the sixth bio-inspired robot from the Tokyo lab, and has been engineered for strength and durability. The lab’s previous robots have aimed to mimic human structures, like the shoulders, knees, and now parts of the excretory system. The team also works on robots that assist the elderly.

Ouch. (University of Tokyo/IEEE Spectrum)
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