Development of hybrid hydraulic–electric power units for field and service robots
Energetic autonomy of a hydraulic-based mobile robot requires a power source capable of both hydraulic and electrical power generation. The hydraulic power is used for locomotion, and the electric power is used for the control computer, sensors and other peripherals. In addition, the power source must be lightweight and quiet. This study presents several designs of internal combustion engine-based power units. Each power unit is evaluated with a Ragone plot which shows its performance over a wide range of operation times. Several hydraulic–electric power units (HEPUs) were built and successfully demonstrated on the Berkeley lower extremity exoskeleton (BLEEX). The best-performing design of the HEPUs, based upon the Ragone plot analysis, is described in detail. This HEPU produces constant pressure hydraulic power and constant voltage electric power. The pressure and voltage are controlled on board the power unit by a computer. A novel characteristic of this power unit is its cooling system in which hydraulic fluid is used to cool the engine cylinders. The prototype power unit weighs 27 kg and produces 2.3 kW (3.0 hp) hydraulic power at 6.9 MPa (1000 p.s.i.) and 220 W of electric power at 15 V DC.
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