Scientists Have Created a Robot Capable of Switching Between Solid and Liquid States


Looking to the future: After creating robots that can change their state between solid and liquid, humanity is again wondering if scientists have ever watched Terminator 2. The researchers demonstrated how one of the machines turns into slime to get out of the bars of the cage. not much different from the T-1000 in the 1991 classic.

Of course, this is not a step towards creating the perfect killing machine. An article published in the scientific journal Matter shows that these robots with magnetoactive phase transition matter (MPTM) are designed for much more practical, non-sinister purposes, such as penetrating the stomach as a small solid block, liquefying around a solid foreign object, transforming into capturing it, and then exiting the body.

Robots can also replace missing screws inside complex machines by inserting a device, melting it into a threaded screw socket, and then reshaping it. The researchers also made robots solder circuits and overcome obstacle courses.

The robots were created by a team from the Chinese University of Hong Kong led by engineer Chengfeng Pan. They are made of magnetic microparticles of neodymium, iron and boron immersed in gallium, which melts at 29.8 degrees Celsius, which is close to room temperature.

In its solid form, the material can support objects whose mass is up to 30 times its mass. To melt it, it is necessary that the material be placed next to magnets with tuned magnetic fields that move tiny magnetic pieces inside the robot, which means that an external heat source is not required.

Another example the team demonstrated was robots carrying a light bulb on a printed circuit board before melting its edges, allowing electricity to pass through their bodies and light the bulb. The researchers also had them climb walls, jump over ditches, and “split in half to move other objects together before coming together again.”

“People have been working on these small magnetically sensitive robots and machines for quite some time,” Carmel Majidi, who heads the Soft Machines laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University and is the senior author of the new study, told Motherboard. “In parallel with this, my group has developed many methods using liquid metals — metals such as gallium, which have a very low melting point.”

As for the T-1000 tribute video, it’s more of a playful allusion to the shape-shifting Terminator that inspired the robot. The tiny Lego figure in the clamp really melts from solid to liquid to get out of the cage, but it is manually given its original shape after passing through the bars. Nevertheless, it’s very cool, if not to say about science in action.


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