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Researchers built a robot that actually sweats when it gets hot

Published Dec 26th, 2017 10:45PM EST
robot that sweats
Image: Luis Perez

When you consider all of the ways that humanoid robots are better than actual humans — they’re stronger, faster, and don’t complain when they stub their toes — you probably don’t take heat into account. Robots tend to get pretty hot when they’re doing serious work, and cooling them down is a serious challenge for engineers, but researchers from Japan have found a way around that, and they took inspiration from you and I.

The robot builders at the JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo have designed a humanoid robot named Kengoro that cools its motors in the same way the human body cools itself when things get a bit too steamy: by sweating.

When humans sweat, the moisture that is pushed out of our skin evaporates and cools us. Robots don’t typically have the same advantage, but when the engineers behind the Kengoro robot discovered the machine’s motors were getting too hot for their own good they were forced to figure out a way to cool them down. They settled on turning Kengoro’s metal “bones” into reservoirs of coolant which it gradually releases in a similar manner to how a human sweats.

As the coolant drips down over the robot’s components it evaporates just like human sweat, providing a cooling solution. The machine’s metal frame was tweaked to allow the liquid to seep out of small channels — think of these like human sweat glands — so that it can be released gradually.

Amazingly, the new “sweat” system works incredibly well, and has proven to be three times better than passive air cooling in keeping Kengoro’s motors at an acceptable temperature. Yes, robots are already better than you at everything, and now they can even sweat better, too.