Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia has developed a new method that can allow liquid metal to self-arrange its own shape, using external chemical inputs. The substance is made up of a highly-conductive liquid-metal core, surrounded by a film of semiconducting oxide skin, allowing the arrangement to be completely malleable, resembling the mimetic polyalloy used by the T-1000 from the Terminator movies.
The technique used to cause the metal to rearrange its shape involves changing the chemical makeup of the water that the metal is kept in, altering the pH levels and salt content of the solution. This prompts the skin surrounding the metal to change its shape, to the point where this change can cause the metal blob can propel itself.
The researchers foresee a number of potential applications for shape-changing liquid metals, ranging from electronic circuits resembling organic cells that can rewire themselves on the fly, to structural components that can be much more robust than similar items that are made of ordinary rigid metal. They do hope that, if this discovery does indeed lead to liquid-metal robots, that their programming is more friendly than that of the average Terminator.
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