Do you still remember the T-1000, a robotic assassin in the science-fiction film Terminator 2: Judgement Day that can assume the form of any object or person? The T-1000 is a robot with a liquid metal endoskeleton that is immune to any attack and damage.
Now a team of scientists, working out of Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have taken the first tep to make smart liquid machines.
Chinese engineers Lei Sheng, Jie Zhang and Jing Liu say they have found a way to manipulate liquid metal that self-assemble into various shapes and forms.
Their study found that when gallium-indium-selenium alloys, with a melting point of around 10°C, were placed in water and applied an electric field, they took on spherical shapes that could move and rotate. This is the result of the balance between the surface tension in the liquid metal and the electronic forces applied to its surface.
Additionally, they can move and rotate the sphere on the surface of the water and even merge it into a larger sphere shape, very much like the T-1000 assassin.
The team suggests that the liquid metal transformers also pose promising prospects in the motion needed devices that can be implanted in human body.
Furthermore, when a series of electrodes are aligned in parallel, the liquid metal can be packaged in earthworm-shaped structures. Simple modulation of the voltages would then cause the earthworm-like robot to move. This method is flexible, simple and cheap, says the team.
"Such liquid metal transformers and locomotors could provide on-demand use given specific designing." they say. "This finding has both fundamental and practical significances which suggest a generalized way of making smart soft machines."
"Importantly, a smart liquid metal machine could be extended to three dimensions when a spatial electrode configuration is adopted."
The researchers now plan to experiment with those complex transformation behaviors, or even without gravity effect to explore more potential for unusual applications.
Posted in 3D Printing Materials
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