Space & Innovation

Humanoid Robot Sweats to Keep Cool

Kengoro the robot has "sweat glands" that send water through its uniquely porous frame, preventing it from overheating.

<p>IEEE Spectrum, YouTube screengrab<span></span></p>

A bio-inspired humanoid robot that sweats like a human is pretty gross. And cool. Literally.

The University of Tokyo robot, called Kengoro, can send small amounts of water through porous metal bones to prevent its numerous motors from overheating.

Dissipating heat has long been a challenge for robotics researchers. Air alone isn't always effective in keeping a bot's temperature under control. Most of the time engineers try to incorporate a fan, radiator system or heat sink into the structure somehow. The big drawback is that these extras take up valuable space.

Kengoro didn't have room to spare. Developed by mechano-informatics professor Masayuki Inaba and his team at the University of Tokyo's Jouhou System Kougaku Laboratory, the humanoid robot contains 108 motors and a bunch of other necessary gear. Standing nearly 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing around 123 pounds, Kengoro also sports incredibly strong, flexible arms and an intense face mask.

To address the cooling problem, Inaba's team came up with a bio-inspired solution that mimics sweating, reports Co.Exist. They used a process called laser sintering to construct the robot's frame from aluminum powder. This technique enabled them to make the frame permeable in a precise way, allowing for embedded micro-channels for controlled water flow, IEEE Spectrum's Evan Ackerman reported.

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The channels work something like "sweat glands" that send water through its uniquely porous frame. Kengoro can go through about a cup of deionized water in a day. Although the system doesn't cool as well as a radiator does, the researchers found it worked much better than simply circulating the water internally. The team recently presented a paper about this sweaty system at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Korea.

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

Artificial perspiration gives Kengoro the ability to do energetic push-ups for 11 minutes straight without burning out. That's way more than I can say for myself - and most of the humans I know.

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