In Terminator 2, the liquid metal robot T1000 transforms through the iron fence and chases the protagonist.
More than 30 years later, this scene has come true in the laboratory!
The robot in the shape of a Lego figurine was locked in a "prison" and found the right angle to start heating itself up and melting into liquid form. After successfully "escaping" from prison, the robot reinvented itself and returned to its prototype.
Surprisingly, these sorts of robots can have vital medical and industrial applications.
The study, published in Cell's journal Matter, is a collaboration between scientists in China. Research team says the fundamental design of the robot was inspired by sea cucumbers in nature, which are endowed with the ability to freely change the hardness of their protein-rich matrix to improve its carrying capacity, and thus effectively prevent the physical damage caused by the environment.
Similarly, this robot is also able to switch freely between liquid and solid states driven by a magnetic field. The research team has creatively come up with a new material, magnetically active phase transition material (MPTM) with strong controllable strength and morphological adaptability. The MPTM can be reversibly converted between solid and liquid states simply by heating with an alternating magnetic field and ambient cooling.
Experiments have demonstrated that robots made from this material perform well in both morphology, having both strength in solid form and free elongating property in liquid form.
Even more, the researchers used a stronger magnetic field to pull the magnetic particles upward, allowing the robot to learn to jump.
As shown earlier, this robot is expected to be used in the future for healthcare, precise cargo transportation, electronic repair, and more through going inside human body to remove foreign objects, and may therefore improve the health care and reduce possibility of malpracticee in the future.