Scientists have created a small robotic system that can go from solid to liquid and back again.
Thanks to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it’s been 30 years since killer liquid metal robots entered our nightmares. His shapeshifting T-1000 robot in that movie seemed to be able to overcome any obstacle while transforming parts of himself into weapons at will.
Skynet’s ghosts and robot apocalypse have haunted us ever since, but now an international team of researchers is working on a real-world version of the T-1000, albeit with a more altruistic purpose. finally provided the
The team says they were inspired not by Hollywood, but by the humble sea cucumber that can transition between soft and rigid states.
“By giving robots the ability to switch between liquid and solid states, we can give them more functionality. Chen Feng Pangan engineer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong led the research.
As if gesturing to a Terminator-inspired night terror, Pan and colleagues explored this by placing one of the small robots in a simulated prison cell and showing them how to escape. It shows an improvement in functionality.
It might be a little hard to understand what’s going on in the video above, but basically the robot melts into a liquid that flows between the bars into a waiting mold where it cools down. is formed and reformed to return to its original state. Admittedly, this deserter is a little less terrifying than his T-1000. Because you need a mold ready to reconfigure itself.
the demonstration is published research Journal Matter Wednesday.
Carmel Majidi, lead author at Carnegie Mellon University, says magnets are what make all of this futuristic phase transition possible.
“The magnetic particles here have two roles. One is to make the material responsive to an alternating magnetic field. gives robots mobility and the ability to move in response to magnetic fields.”
The particles are embedded in gallium, a metal with a very low melting point of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (about 30 degrees Celsius), creating a substance that flows more like water than other more viscous phase-change materials.
In our tests, the mini-robot was able to jump over obstacles, scale walls, split in half, and rejoin all while being magnetically controlled.
“Now we are pushing this materials system in a more practical way to solve very specific medical and engineering problems,” said Pan.
Other demonstrations used the robot to solder circuits, administer drugs, and remove foreign objects from the model’s stomach.
The researchers envision the system working as a “universal screw” that can make repairs in hard-to-reach areas, blend into screw sockets, and harden without the need to actually screw them in.
The team is particularly excited about the potential medical applications.
“Future research should further explore how these robots can be used in a biomedical context,” said Majidi. “What we’re showing him is just a one-off demonstration, a proof of concept, but much more research is needed to delve into how this could actually be used for drug delivery and foreign body removal.” is required.”
We hope that the list of foreign objects that need to be removed does not include small weaponized melting robots. Because it can be difficult to track and extract.