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Crazy new spy robot gathers intelligence and then melts into a puddle

Published Mar 18th, 2023 10:33AM EDT
small puddle on concrete surface
Image: uladzimirzuyeu / Adobe

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Researchers have detailed a melting spy robot that could one day collect information and then melt into an oily puddle after being exposed to UV light or heat. The design of such a robot is highlighted in a paper currently published in the journal Matter. According to the paper, the soft robot could collect intelligence as well as take care of other things that might be needed by such a machine.

The melting spy robot is what scientists refer to as a soft robot, meaning that it is made up of materials that are more flexible than those found on conventional robots. These softer materials allow the robots to be more flexible, and they’ve been proposed for several jobs, including delivering medicine to wild animals and even cancer-fighting robots that can travel to specific parts of the body.

magnetic slime
Other soft robots researchers have seen success with include a magnetic slime that could transport medicine through the body. Image source: Sun, Tian, Zhang et. al./Chinese University of Hong Kong / New Scientist / YouTube

This particular robot was built using a silicone composite that the researchers created. The material degrades quickly when exposed to UV light and heat, making this melting spy robot easy to dispose of when its mission is complete. To test the robot’s efficiency, the researchers simulated a mission where it had to scout an unknown environment and then destroy itself.

The robot could detect temperature readings during its mission and even alert the researchers of those changes. It also utilized photodetectors to sense light from a UV lamp. Once the mission was completed, the melting spy robot moved to a small hot plate heated to 120 degrees Celsius (248 Fahrenheit). The robot then melted into an oily fluid, a transformation caused by exposure to UV light and then the heat from the plate.

This melting robot isn’t the only soft robot we’ve seen showing extreme promise in recent years. Last year, researchers created a robotic slime that used magnets to move and collect objects, allowing it to move through tight areas without causing issues.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.