If you’re of a certain age then the movie Terminator 2 Judgement Day would have had a profound effect on how you view technological advances, and the phrase liquid metal will immediately conjure the image of Robert Patrick’s T-1000 shapeshifting killer robot.
Researchers will have us believe that liquid metal that morphs and bends into any shape will have plethora future applications in robotics beyond the production of shapeshifting assassins.
The Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Biomedical Engineering at Beihang University believe they are close to developing new liquid metals that can be manipulated with magnets. Their work has found that by adding magnetic particles, such as nickel or Iron, to metals which retain a liquid state at room temperature they could create a compound that could be manipulated in a way similar to the blockbuster film franchise’s creation.
ACS, a U.S. Congress-chartered not-for-profit organization, said in a public statement: “Because of their high surface tension, most magnetic liquid metals can only move horizontally, and they must be immersed completely in liquid to avoid forming a paste.
“When the team applied two magnets in opposite directions, they could stretch the droplet to almost four times its resting length.
“They could also manipulate the liquid metal to connect two immersed, horizontal electrodes and, by virtue of its conductive properties, light up an LED bulb.”
The MLMD is not completely bound to the magnetic liquid in which it rests and is able to stretch out into the open air.
The ACS published paper on the material reads: “Moreover, the vertically stretched magnetic liquid metal droplet (MLMD) can move horizontally with its half body in the solution and the other half in the air, which resembles the nature of an upright walking amphibian”
It is hoped that the technology will lead to the proliferation of soft robotics technology.
The paper continues: “With all the appealing properties, this MLMD presents a fundamental and promising platform for the liquid metals to further develop the multi-freedom actuation in free space and eventually lead to the dynamically reconfigurable intelligent and biomimetic soft robots in the future.”