An article published in the scientific journal Matter shows the use of robots composed of ‘Magnetoactive Phase Transitional Matter’, (MPTM), which manage to go from a solid state to a liquid state and then back to a solid state. We’re still not at the point where we have shape-shifting machines like the T-1000 from Terminator 2, but this is a demonstration that material technology is advancing very quickly.
The T-1000 in the film was a robot designed to kill, but these robots are being developed for more peaceful applications, such as entering the digestive system as a solid object, turning into a liquid to grab anything. foreign object and solidify again to exit the body.
Another possible application is the replacement of parts in complex machines without having to completely disassemble them. The robot enters the device, and assumes the shape of the part you want to replace inside. In the publication, the development team shows these robots running through labyrinths and obstacle courses.
The robots were created by a team of scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, led by engineer Chengfeng Pan. They are composed of neodymium, iron and boron microparticles mixed with gallium, which reaches a melting point at 29.8 degrees centigrade.
When in a solid state, the material can support the equivalent of 30 times its mass. To switch to a liquid state, the robots must be placed near magnetic fields specifically designed for each application. These magnetic fields manage to manipulate the iron particles inside the robot, which does not require the use of an external heat source to change from solid to liquid.
Another example demonstrated in the publication was that of a robot carrying a light bulb on a circuit board. When the robot reaches the terminals, it changes to a liquid state, allowing the passage of electric current to light the lamp.
The video of a robot in the shape of a Lego minifigure passing through the bars, is a direct reference to the T-1000 from Terminator 2, but unlike the robot in the film, which after passing through the bars returns to its original form on its own, the one in the video becomes liquid, “escapes from prison” and then has to go into a mold that is cooled down, to return to its initial shape.