These sweaty robots cool themselves faster than humans

The soft robot muscle that can regulate its own temperature

The soft robot muscle that can regulate its own temperature

In a press release, the researchers said its the basic building block for creating high-powered robots that can operate for extended periods of time without burning out.

For rigid devices, fan and heat sink systems are an ideal solution to dissipate heat, but they are not suitable for a device that needs to flex in all directions. Unlike metals, which can dissipate heat quickly, soft robots are made from synthetic materials which typically hold on to heat.

One of the hurdles for making enduring, adaptable and agile robots is managing the robots' internal temperature, according to Shepherd, the paper's senior author.

A Cornell team led by Rob Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, made a 3D-printed hand with hydraulically controlled fingers that can cool itself by sweating.

This heat could cause the robot to malfunction if it doesn't cool down, which prompted researchers from Cornell University to look at how humans get cool.

The team says that cooling technology inside like a fan might not help much because it would take up space and add weight. The scientists tested them by grasping both regular- and irregular-shaped hot objects, showing the adaptability and cooling power of the soft robots.

The artificial skin that allows robots to feel

Scientists also invented fingerlike actuators composed of two hydrogel materials that can retain water and respond to temperature - in effect, "smart" sponges.

When the fingers reach a temperature of 30°C (86°F), the base layer reacts by shrinking, squeezing the water through the top micron-sized pores in the top layer.

They established a hydrogel product that presses water from a collection of little pores that immediately expand when the temperature level hits 86 F (30 C), and also close when the temperature level drops below that.

"The ability to perspire is one of the most remarkable features of humans", said co-lead author T.J. Wallin, M.S. '16, Ph.D. Downsides are potentially hindered mobility and the fact that robots need to refill their water.

However, it will be a while before they start appearing in mainstream technology, as the team haven't been able to find a way to replenish water lost during operation. "This brings up a point [about the importance of] multidisciplinary research in this area, where really no one group has all the answers".

The research was supported in part by the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program.

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