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article imageRobot designed to regulate own temperature for extreme conditions

By Tim Sandle     Feb 23, 2020 in Science
A new type of robot has been developed, one that can cope with extreme environmental conditions. The robot is capable of temperature regulation, able to self-adjust to extremes of heat and cold.
The new development is in the form of a soft robot muscle which is capable of regulating its temperature through a function that is analogous to sweating.
The Cornell University research is based on the concept of thermal management, to devise robots that are mobile and high-powered, and which can operate for extended periods of time without overheating.
This is important in extreme environments, such as areas of high heat, since without the capability to manage a robots' internal temperature, high-torque density motors and exothermic engines could trigger overheating, rendering the robot non-functional.
Researcher T.J. Wallin discusses the inspiration behind the experiment, which was inspired by human biology: “Sweating takes advantage of evaporated water loss to rapidly dissipate heat and can cool below the ambient environmental temperature. ... So as is often the case, biology provided an excellent guide for us as engineers.”
The cooling functionality was achieved by the use of nanopolymer materials. These materials were generated by a special type of 3D-printing technique termed multi-material stereolithography. This additive manufacturing process uses light to cure resin into predesigned shapes.
The printing process enabled the scientists to construct finger-like actuators made up of two hydrogel materials that can retain water and respond to temperature (a type of "smart" sponge). The base layer responds to temperatures above 30 C (86 F) by shrinking. This activity squeezes water up into a top layer of perforated with micron-sized pores.
The pores are sensitive to the same temperature range and automatically dilate to release the "sweat," then close when the temperature drops below 30 C and this cools down the robot.
The development has been reported to the publication Science Robotics, where the research paper is titled “Autonomic perspiration in 3D-printed hydrogel actuators.”
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