Robots are getting soft. Literally. Instead of metal and silicon, robots are being made from polymers and other flexible materials.
A team of scientists from RMIT Australia want to go one step beyond and design robots made from liquid metal, ala the shape-shifting T-1000 assassin from Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
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Their goal is not to create killer robots, but to advance computing beyond the current solid state models to soft circuit systems that can be reconfigured on the fly.
The team, lead by professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh used droplets made from non-toxic alloys of gallium, which are characteristically malleable, contain a conductive core and are encased in a semiconducting thin skin.
Next, the scientists put the droplets into water and added different combinations of acid, base and salt to see how those different solutions affected the liquid metal droplets.
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Interestingly enough, adjusting the water's chemistry propelled the liquid metal droplet along tiny channels in a way that's analogous with how cells move through the blood stream.
Imagine a robot with internal components that work in a similar way -- tiny particles of liquid metal that deliver information or power through "veins" and are flexible enough to change shape or tolerate damage.
The video below gives a short explanation and shows the metal droplets moving through the channels on their own.
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The research, published in Nature Communications, gives the future of 3-D electronic displays or floating electronics a starting point.
"Eventually, using the fundamentals of this discovery, it may be possible to build a 3-D liquid metal humanoid on demand – like the T-1000 Terminator but with better programming," Kalantar-zadeh said in a press release..
Okay, so maybe we are heading for judgment day.