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A squishy robot hand can sweat to cool itself down

January 30, 2020
Robot hands sweating
Robot hands sweatingMishra et al

The news: Robots are typically made of metal and motors, so they can easily overheat and stop working. To avoid that problem, researchers at Cornell University have created a soft robot hand that can cool itself down the same way we do—by sweating.

How it works: The hand is made up of three hollow 3D-printed fingers made from hydrogels. Each finger is filled with water and covered with a surface layer of micropores. The pores are closed at cool temperatures, but if they go above 86 F (30 °C), the surface layer expands, allowing the pores to open and “sweat” out the water, cooling the robot down. The fingers are three times more efficient than humans at sweating, the researchers say in a paper in Science Robotics.

Apart from being “ugh,” what’s it for? This approach could let robots operate for longer, and in environments where you can’t cool them down with fans or air conditioning units. However, there are downsides: there’s currently no way to top up the fluid levels, and the added moisture may degrade the robots’ ability to grip objects. And this robot is extremely basic right now.

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