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Cornell creates ‘sweating’ robot as NY to host biorobotic congress

Researchers at Cornell University have created a soft robot muscle that can regulate its temperature through ‘sweating’.

The discovery is the latest in a network of New York-based institutions making leaps in robotics and biorobotics.

The thermal management technology – drawing on sweating, the natural cooling system of mammals – will enable high-powered robots to operate for long periods of time without overheating, according to the project’s leader, Rob Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Shepherd is attached to Cornell’s Organic Robots Laboratory (ORL), which focuses on using organic chemistry of soft material composites for new capabilities in robots.

The team developed 3D-printed robot fingers composed of two hydrogel materials that can retain water and respond to temperature. The base layer shrinks above temperatures of 30° C, squeezing water up to a top layer dotted with micron-sized pores.

The temperature-sensitive pores force out the water – or robot sweat – for evaporation on the surface of the hydraulically controlled fingers, reducing surface temperature by 21° C within 30 seconds (three times more efficient than humans).

Because ‘sweating’ robots would also need to replenish their water supply, Shepherd envisions soft robots will someday not only perspire like mammals, but drink like them, too.

The ability of a robot to secrete fluids could also lead to methods for absorbing nutrients, catalyzing reactions, removing contaminants and coating the robot’s surface with a protective layer.

“I think that the future of making these more biologically analogous materials and robots is going to rely on the material composition,” Shepherd said. “This brings up a point [about the importance of] multidisciplinary research in this area, where really no one group has all the answers.”

Elsewhere in New York, Columbia University’s Engineering and Medical campuses join forces in the Robotics And Rehabilitation (RoAR) Lab, which is focused on developing innovative robots and methods to help humans relearn, restore, or improve functional movements.

Columbia will host the BioRob 2020 – International Conference for Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, from 29 June – 2 July 2020.

Others at the forefront of the robotics field in New York include: NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, City Tech’s Robotics & Intelligent Systems Research Laboratory, the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Samsung AI Center in New York. 

(via Cornell University, NewAtlas)