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Researchers invented a liquid metal robot that can shapeshift like a Terminator

Published Jan 28th, 2023 9:15PM EST
shape-shifting liquid metal
Image: Photo&Graphic Stock / Adobe

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Scientists continue to make intriguing breakthroughs that could help reshape our lives. This time, a group of scientists managed to create a shape-shifting liquid metal that can transition between the solid and liquid state. The new liquid is reminiscent of the liquid shapeshifting seen in 1991’s Terminator 2, and the scientists even tested it by having it escape a cage.

The scientists published a paper on the new shape-shifting liquid in the journal Matter. In it, they discuss how they created the metal and the rigorous tests they put it through. For the most part, the scientists created the liquid in the form of small robots, which they were then able to shift between solid and liquid states to jump, climb, and – as noted above – even ooze out of a cage to freedom.

The scientists utilized magnetic fields to control the shape and movements of the shape-shifting liquid metal robots. The hope is that by using magnets to help move and control the shapeshifting of the robots, the scientists will be able to utilize the liquid metal in both biomedical and engineering technologies, things like targeted drug delivery and circuit assembly.

The key, they explained in the paper, is the use of magnetoactive phase transitional matter (MPTM). To create that, the researchers used gallium metal embedded with tiny magnetic particles, and then placed the shape-shifting liquid metal robots into magnetic fields that they could control.

We already have soft, malleable robot slime that we can control with magnets, so why do we need something made of shape-shifting liquid metal? The benefit of having a piece of technology that can transition between the two states of matter is that it doesn’t suffer from the weaknesses that robots of the harder and softer states suffer from on their own.

As such, being able to shift between solid and liquid allows the metal robot to move fast, but also to take advantage of the strength of a solid object when needed. The ability to move between both states using magnetic fields allowed the robots made of shape-shifting liquid metal to solder circuits, remove objects from a dummy stomach, and even mold themselves into universal screws.

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.