A new scientific discovery could change the course of robotics and bring about the end of humanity, if blockbuster movies are to be believed. In “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” a cutting-edge Terminator dubbed the T-1000 was composed of liquid metal, allowing the robot to change forms at will. While our current robots do not possess this type of capability, the development of new liquid metals that can be manipulated in 3D space with magnets brings us one step closer to turning science fiction into reality.
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According to the American Chemical Society: "Metals that are liquids at room temperature, such as gallium and certain alloys, have unique properties including high conductivity, low melting point and high deformability. These properties make them attractive for use in soft robots and flexible electronics. By adding magnetic particles, such as nickel or iron, researchers can produce liquid metals that they can manipulate with magnets. However, because of their high surface tension, most magnetic liquid metals can only move horizontally, and they must be immersed completely in liquid to avoid forming a paste. Liang Hu, Jing Liu and colleagues wanted to make a magnetic liquid metal that they could move and stretch both horizontally and vertically, without needing to put the material completely in a liquid."