Researchers create liquid robot – principle reminiscent of ‘Terminator 2’

prevents any obstruction
Researchers create liquid robot – a bit like in the movie ‘Terminator 2’

by Kay Stobel

A miniature robot made of new material can decompose – and finally regain its old shape. He reminds us of the famous villain from “Terminator 2”. But unlike there, the new development should help people.

In 1991, a liquid robot caused a stir among the movie audience: in the movie “Terminator 2 – Judgment Day,” the villain is a hunting machine made of a special metal that, if necessary, can melt and then return to its original form. Even the rails can’t stop this super robot called “T-1000”, when in doubt it simply scurries right through it.

Now, 30 years later, this shape-shifting robot appears to be a reality. At least a little. An international research team has built a tiny robot out of a material with similar wondrous capabilities. MPTM (magnetic phase change material) consists of magnetic microparticles embedded in gallium. This metal has a very low melting point of just under 30 degrees. The researchers published the results in the specialized journal “Thing”.

The great thing is that your robot can also practically melt on command and later restore to its original shape by cooling. The researchers demonstrated this very clearly with a simulated attempt to get out of a small cage: On Video It shows how the figure dribbles into the shape of a Lego man and is channeled through the rails in this case. Shortly thereafter the Resurrection of the Piece of Metal. Just on the other side of the network.

A disadvantage compared to the T-1000

The secret to the miracle material is the magnetic particles in gallium. These are two tasks, explains lead author Carmel Magdy of Carnegie Mellon University. “The first is that it makes the material receive an alternating magnetic field, so you can heat it by induction and cause a phase change.” And second, magnetic particles gave the robots their locomotion — their movements could be controlled by a magnetic field.

However, this is also the crucial difference from the T-1000 in the movie “Terminator”: the robot from the study needs an external induction coil to melt matter and move forward. However, the movie bot can do all this on its own.

However, the researchers’ approach could help solve an old problem: While conventional robots are rigid and rigid, soft robots have more flexibility, but are weak and difficult to control their movements. “Giving robots the ability to switch between a liquid and solid state gives them more functionality,” says study leader Chengfeng Pan, an engineer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Message.

Removal of a foreign body from the stomach

With their study, the researchers initially only want to prove the performance of the new material. In another video, they show how two robots work together to move things, for example. In another experiment, a cube-shaped metal robot removes foreign bodies from a model stomach or administers medication. “MPTMs show promise for future applications in flexible electronics, healthcare, and robotics,” says the study.

But Majidi also stresses that the research is still in its infancy. “What we’re showing here are just one-off demonstrations, proofs of concept.” Much research is still needed before a sometimes liquid, sometimes solid robot can administer medicine to human patients.

In addition, the materials used in the experiments could also be problematic for medical applications, stresses Brad Nelson, professor of robotics at ETH Zurich, who was not involved in the study. “Washington Post”Because it contains neodymium – iron – boron, which is toxic to humans. Therefore, this robot is clinically safe for use in humans only “if it is completely removed from the body,” says Nelson.


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