Researchers in Japan were faced with the problem of cooling a humanoid robot because it has 108 motors all over its humanoid “body.” But the robot was already very heavy and full of parts, so they wanted to find a cooling mechanism that wouldn’t add to the weight. The result was a “robot that sweats” to cool itself off, just like humans do.
Meet Kengoro, the University of Tokyo’s humanoid robot that uses a unique water-cooling system build into its frame. The system uses ionized water, which runs through the robot’s aluminium “bones.” Essentially, there are minute channels that allow the water to slowly seep through to the surface and then evaporate, cooling that area. That’s exactly how sweating in humans helps cool the body after vigorous physical activity.
In Kengoro’s case, “he” was able to do 11 minutes of push-ups without his motors burning out, which they would have done had it not been for the water-cooling system. The system itself isn’t as efficient as an active radiator for cooling, but it is far more efficient than merely running water through Kengoro’s “pipes” and 3X more efficient than an air-cooled system.
How Much Water Does Kengoro Require?
According to the researchers, Kengoro can run for half a day on a single cup of ionized water. If he “drinks” more, he can last longer.
The efficiency of such a system – a robot that sweats – holds tremendous implications for artificial intelligence systems. These systems inevitably generate a tremendous amount of heat, and it is expensive to cool them down. Similarly, large data centers with thousands of servers also have the same problem of overheating, and it is leading to innovative solutions.
Other Innovative Cooling Solutions – but not as cool as a robot that sweats!
For example, three years ago Facebook built a data center in Northern Sweden at the very edge of the Arctic Circle. The cold air from outside is piped in to cool the servers, and any excess heat from the servers doubles-up as internal heating for the attached office.
Google reportedly tried a “floating data center” on a barge in San Francisco Bay the same year that Facebook opened the Swedish data center, but there was no further comment from Google about the massive floating structure that many say looked like a data center.
Microsoft earlier this year unveiled Project Natick, which was basically an attempt to completely submerge the data center in water. They created an 8-foot capsule that they deployed off the coast of California towards the end of 2015.
Kengoro, the robot that sweats, however, really takes the cake because it is the only such system that mimics the human body. Obviously a lot more research has to go into the system but if they find that it is practical and easy to deploy, we might see the technology cropping up in unexpected places.
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