A team of scientists had created a new miniature robot that is capable of shifting between solid and liquid states in seconds.
Robotics had unfolded itself as largely capable field of science and technology proliferating robots that breaks the conventional labels that the domain once had. More than imitating humans, it had marched beyond that doing something humans can’t do. After swarm robots, and self-building robots, this liquid robot is fascinating enough to perceive the extent of technology.
The tiny robot shifts from its solid state to become a liquid to flow and escape out of the jail bars like the robot T-1000 from Terminator 2, which can change its shape at will. Scientists used a material what they call “magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional machine”.
The miniature shapeshifting robot can liquefy itself and reform, enabling it to carry out tasks in places that’s hard to access and be advantageous to various fields, according to its makers.
“Giving robots the ability to switch between liquid and solid states endows them with more functionality,” says Chengfeng Pan, an engineer from Chinese University of Hong Kong who led the study.
For this ability, the mini robot was made from a mix of the liquid metal gallium and microscopic pieces of magnetic material made of neodymium, iron and boron. This fetches magnetism to the robot, besides being a conductor of electricity. The solid form of the material is strong enough to withstand 30 times its own mass.
Such a solid form can liquefy, flow in the intimated direction and again reform itself into solid after the job is done.
How it works?
The robot’s magnetism primely accredits for its shapeshifting power, and takes two roles for the liquifying and reforming process. First, on exposing the material to an alternating magnetic field, the magnetic elements in the robot heat up the material via induction and cause the phase change to liquid. And while doing this, the magnetic particles also give the robots mobility to move in response to the magnetic field.
As the new robot can itself shape-shift to required state, not relying on any external heat sources, it has huge applications overthrowing the existing shape-shifting materials too.
The work was published in the journal Matter.
Liquid Robots too can take over Jobs
Owing to its potential, the team foresee its wide application in the medical and engineering fields in future.
Scientists believe that this robotic field could upgrade the medication to patients in novel ways doing great stuffs. In a test, they were able to deliver drugs into a model stomach and also remove a foreign object (toxic item) from the stomach – means, swallowed toxic items can be extracted from the stomach using this robot.
These melty robots could be helpful in fixing situations where humans hand can’t reach practically. For example, the material can seep through broken electrical circuits and dedicate itself to be a solder to repair the issue or do the needful.
Also, a real case application could be like the liquefied robot replacing a lost screw on a spacecraft by flowing into its place and then solidifying.