Terminator 2 Came True
Fans of the sci-fi film genre may remember the scene in Terminator 2 where a robot made of liquid metal (the T-1000) easily passes through metal bars. Researchers have recently developed a new substance that can replicate a similar ability, which could have potential uses in construction and medical procedures.
The new substance, called a “magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional machine,” has been shown to be able to “jump” over obstacles, climb walls, and even split into two parts before coming back together. In a video, a Lego man-shaped mold of the substance can be seen liquifying and passing through small metal bars before reforming into its original shape.
According to Carmel Majidi, a senior author and mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon, the material in the video does in fact liquify and move through the metal bars via alternating electromagnetic currents, but the mold is then recast into its original shape. He emphasizes that the material has many potential uses in various situations.
The material was created by embedding magnetic particles within gallium, a metal with a low melting point. The magnetically infused gallium is exposed to an alternating magnetic field to generate heat, which causes the substance to change form. By controlling the electromagnetic field, the researchers can control the direction of the liquid form while still maintaining a less viscous state than other phase-changing materials.
According to Majidi, there has been a lot of research into using soft magnetic devices for biomedical applications such as diagnostics, drug delivery, and removing foreign objects.
The latest variation of this type of substance created by Majidi and his colleagues is unique in that it can change stiffness and shape, which can lead to greater mobility.
However, Majidi states that it is still a long way from being used in medical settings. In the meantime, it could be used in circuit assembly and repair, where it can flow into hard-to-reach areas and solidify as a conductor and solder.
More testing needs to be done to determine the substance’s biocompatibility for humans, but Majidi suggests that in the future it may be possible for patients to undergo medical procedures using the material guided by an MRI-like machine.
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