This little robot can melt, escape from prison by slipping through secure bars, and then transform into a solid and full-tasker.
However, unlike in the movie, the inventors of this robot believe that their invention can be usefully used by reaching inaccessible places, especially in clinical and mechanical settings.
The robot was introduced as part of research into metal microparticles known as a type of magnetoactive phase transition material, which can be shaped, moved quickly, easily controlled and carried much more than their own body weight.
The scientists behind the study published their findings on Wednesday Matter magazinecreated the robot using a composite of metals with low melting points.
Chengfeng Pan, an engineer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said, “This material can achieve Terminator-2-like performance, including fast movement and heavy load carrying in the solid state and shape change in the liquid state.” co-author of the study told The Washington Post when asked about its discovery and comparisons to the Terminator movies.
“Potentially, this material system could be used for applications in flexible electronics, healthcare and robotics.”
By blasting the robot with alternating current magnetic fields, the scientists raised its temperature to 95 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius), causing it to turn from solid to liquid in 1 minute and 20 seconds. After turning into liquid metal, the statuette was more able to pass through the narrow spaces of its magnetically locked cage, demonstrating its ability to transform.
A material that can both change shape and carry heavy loads has been identified for the first time for use in microbots, according to scientists from the universities of China, Hong Kong and America who worked on the research – solving a puzzle that has baffled the miniature robot. manufacturers who previously struggled to achieve both flexibility and strength in their designs.
In liquid form, the robot can be made to extend, divide and connect. In its solid form, it was driven at speeds in excess of 3 mph and carried heavy objects up to 30 times its own weight. The combination means that a robot made of the material can be placed to fix electronics in hard-to-reach places, such as to act as a makeshift screw or to solder electronics in tight spaces.
In another experiment, the researchers demonstrated how a robot could be placed on a model of a human stomach to remove an unwanted foreign object. The scientists moved the solid-state robot, which is less than 0.4 inches wide, through a fake organ until it located the foreign body. It was then melted by remotely controlled magnetic fields, stretched around the object in a new liquid metallic state, and once it securely embraced it – it cooled back into a solid, allowing the foreign object to be ejected from the chamber.
The shape-shifting material is the latest in a series of advances in miniature robotics as scientists race to identify potential medical and mechanical applications for tiny robots in everyday life.
Recent microrobotic innovations include potentially quite small robots runs through human veinssmart enough to be taught to swimand able to fly in the air with others small onboard power supply.
“We’re still early in exploring what kinds of materials can do this,” Brad Nelson, a professor of robotics at ETH Zurich who was not part of the research, told The Washington Post. He adds that one of the most exciting areas of research in microrobotics right now is clinical applications — especially for delivering drugs to the brain or treating blood clots.
Nelson says that while the metal microbot unveiled Wednesday is instructive, its use of neodymium iron tube, which is toxic to humans, means it will only be clinically safe if it is completely removed from the body.
“People who are really looking at clinical applications of these devices, we want to look at materials that can degrade in the body, that stay in the body without harming the patient,” Nelson said.
For Pan, the comparisons between his creation and the Terminator’s T-1000 character are understandable, but limited by how far they can be taken. “Our robot still needs an external heater for fusion and an external magnetic field to control movement and shape change,” he said. “The Terminator is fully autonomous.”
Nelson also argues that the risk of accidentally creating a real-life cyborg killer is nothing to worry about.
“I don’t see the possibility of injecting something into someone and then having microbots infiltrate their brain and take over their thoughts or something crazy like that.
“The technology isn’t there, and I don’t see it going there,” Nelson said — adding that if the technology were tested in a clinical setting, there would be safeguards in place to guard against such risks.
Naomi Schanen contributed to this report