Science

Japan Builds Sweating Robot, Increases Machine's Overall Performance

By J Russ I. , Oct 15, 2016 03:00 AM EDT
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For the longest time, there have only been a handful of similarities between humans and robots. Basic anatomy like having arms, legs, and a head, for instance, is among them.

However, another has been added to the short list when Japanese researchers proposed an idea that mimics how people naturally cool-off when undergoing excessive activity. Perspiration has only been attributed to living organisms, but it seems that humanoid robots have reached this realm as well.

Structural Burden Leads Researchers To Apply Unique Cooling System

Overheating is one of the major problems when it comes to robotics. When these robots exert a high constant torque demand on their motors, the generated heat causes performance issues.

Engineers solved this problem by adding fans, coolants, radiators, and other dedicated infrastructure designed to address the heat being produced. But all of these takes up space and adds mass to the machine, according to Spectrum.

This issue was getting in the way of researchers from the University of Tokyo led by Professor Masayuki Inaba. Their 1.7-meter tall, 56-kilogram musculoskeletal humanoid robot, dubbed Kengoro, is already burdened with components, gears, circuit boards, and 108 motors and there were simply no room for a cooling system.

Kengoro's Sweat System

So they used Kengoro's skeletal structure to address this problem instead. And this isn't just your cop-out cooling mechanism where water channels will pass through and circulate through the frame.

No, Kengoro actually sweats. The team achieved this by creating a skeletal frame that is microporous, meaning tiny holes are dotting the "bones" of the robot.

When Kengoro is undergoing a lot of activity and starts to heat up, water from a pump is released in the inner porous components of the frame. It then travels near the surface of the structure where the liquid evaporates rather than leaking on the floor.

Kengaro Needs To Keep Itself Hydrated To Keep Generated Heat In Check

The result is that the robot can run for half-a-day by only consuming about a cup of deionized water, although it has to constantly hydrate itself to keep the generated heat in check. The unique cooling system also allows Kengoro to do push-ups for 11 minutes straight without burning out its motor, reported Gizmodo.

"Usually the frame of a robot is only used to support forces," said Toyotaka Kozuki, lead author of the research. "Our concept was adding more functions to the frame, using it to transfer water, release heat, and at the same time support forces."

While researchers admitted that traditional fans and radiators are better, they found that this new human-like system works thrice as efficient than air cooling and is significantly better at having water circulating through the interior channels. It's certainly is a weird day when a human's natural biological process is adapted by machines to help them function better.

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