Scientists develop Terminator-style stretchable liquid metal


Scientists develop Terminator-style stretchable liquid metal in breakthrough that could revolutionize soft robotics

  • The liquid metal is being compared to a popular villain from ‘The Terminator’
  • It can bend and mold, making its applicable for future endeavors in soft robotics
  • Unlike other liquid metals it is viable outside of water and can bend vertically 

A new host of liquid metals that have applications towards soft robotics are making movies like ‘The Terminator’ transcend make-believe.  

According to researchers, experimental liquid metals like gallium and other alloys, when supplemented with nickel or iron, are able to flex and mold into shapes with the use of magnets, much like the iconic movie villain, T-1000 from ‘The Terminator 2: Judgement Day.’ 

While other such metals have been developed, they contended with two major drawbacks. 

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A malleable metallic villain like the T-1000 from 'The Terminator' may have gotten one step closer to fruition

A new host of liquid metals that have applications towards soft robotics are making movies like ‘The Terminator’ transcend make-believe toward real life. Researchers test a moldable liquid metal with applications towards soft robotics

WHAT IS ‘LIQUID METAL’? 

Researchers say experimental liquid metals like gallium and other alloys, when supplemented with nickel or iron, are able to flex and mold into shapes with the use of magnets.

A new material revealed by the American Chemical Society solves to major problems experienced by similar substances. 

For one, it can stretch vertically, unlike previous versions.

Secondly, the substance is able to be manipulated outside of water using magnets. 

This could be used in soft robotics. 

First, prior substances could only stretch horizontally due to their high surface tension, making them severely limited in terms of mobility. 

Secondly, the prior substances could only be  manipulated when completely submerged in water. 

If removed from liquid, the substances turned into a kind of paste, researchers say.  

New advancements, however, have made strides in solving those two issues.

By adding iron and nickel to gallium as well as a tin alloy immersed in hydrochloric acid, researchers say they were able to drastically reduce surface tension and subsequently stretch the material to four times its resting length. 

The material — tested while submerged in liquid — also showed conductivity by connecting two electrodes and lighting up an LED bulb. 

Researchers found that the metal also crossed another hurdle, it was capable of connecting to an electrode positioned vertically above the metal, outside of the water without turning into a paste. 

Though the demonstration is quite a ways from fully mimicking the movies, the researchers paper, published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces says their discovery could be a first step. 

‘This… presents a fundamental and promising platform for the liquid metals to further develop,’ reads the paper. 

‘And eventually lead to the dynamically reconfigurable intelligent and biomimetic soft robots in the future.’

According to researchers, experimental liquid metals like gallium and other alloys, when supplemented with nickel or iron, are able to flex and mold into shapes with the use of magnets, much like the iconic movie villain, T-1000 from 'The Terminator 2: Judgement Day'

According to researchers, experimental liquid metals like gallium and other alloys, when supplemented with nickel or iron, are able to flex and mold into shapes with the use of magnets, much like the iconic movie villain, T-1000 from ‘The Terminator 2: Judgement Day’

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