These Robots Learn to Sweat To Stop Themselves From Overheating
Sat, April 10, 2021

These Robots Learn to Sweat To Stop Themselves From Overheating

The soft robot hand sweats when its performance is deteriorating / Photo Credit: Charles Taylor (via Shutterstock)


James Vincent of American technology news and media network The Verge wrote that there is a soft robot hand that sweats to handle scenarios where long operating hours might lead the unit to overheat. It even sweats when its performance is deteriorating. Material scientist T.J. Wallin, one of the gripper’s designers, told reporters during a briefing, “The ability to perspire is one of the most remarkable features of humans.” Humans are not the fastest animals, but early humans were successful as persistent hunters as they used their ability to run and stay cool via sweating to physically exhaust their prey.

The fingers’ hollow, pressurized reservoirs are filled with water and connected to the surface via ducts, which are made of heat-reactive plastic. When the plastic reaches a certain temperature, the pores open, pushing water to the surface. The water evaporates with a cooling effect. Most robots are made from metal. Metal is an excellent conductor and good at dispersing hear. However, soft robots are designed to perform delicate tasks such as medical procedures and packing fruit and are made from rubber, an insulator.

By developing sweat glands into a machine, you can help cool the unit below the temperature of its surroundings, which is something you cannot achieve just by using fans. The integrated sweat glands mean that the robot can function independently as it can keep itself cool in places where fans and other external coolants are unavailable.

Scientists from Cornell University and the Istituto Italiano di Technologia Anand K. Mishra and colleagues, who published their research on journal portal Science Robotics, explained that it could be an essential aspect for designing robots that operate independently. During a briefing, Robert Shepherd, associate professor of Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and co-author of the research, stated, “We believe [this] is a basic building block of a general purpose, adaptive, and enduring robot.” The sweat glands could also be used to extract liquid from the robot’s surroundings for analysis.

However, sweat glands can cause performance issues such as a reduction in friction due to the robot’s sweaty fingers. Wallin added, “Hopefully that means that the penalty we pay is not as debilitating.”