Scientists create shape-shifting robot that can melt through prison bars


You're not seeing things: scientists have developed a real humanoid shape-shifting robot that can liquefy and then reconstruct itself. They call it a "shape-morphing" robot. In other words, the lilliputian bot resembles a T-1000 prototype from the 1991 film "Terminator 2," demonstrating once more why you should never doubt James Cameron's vision.

The goal of a recent study, which was published in the journal Cells, was to bridge the gap between conventional, hard-bodied robots and "soft" robots, which are often comprised of more pliable but weaker materials. They were motivated by squishy sea cucumbers and believed that changing between states was the best course of action.

That evidently worked out for them, too. Check out this demonstration, which pays homage to one of Robert Patrick's most famous moments from James Cameron's action epic by melting through small jail bars with a robot that looks like a LEGO minifigure.

The researchers did this by developing a brand-new type of phase-shifting material made of gallium known as "magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional matter" (MPTM).

Thanks to magnetic particles incorporated in the gallium, MPTM simply has to be triggered by a magnetic field before heating up, unlike other phase-shifting materials that need an external heat source like heat guns and electrical currents.

This makes it simple for a robot built of the material to liquefy very rapidly, along with the metal's low melting point of slightly under 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to a news statement by senior author Carmel Majidi, an engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, "the magnetic particles here have two jobs." "One is that they render the substance susceptible to an alternating magnetic field, allowing for induction heating and phase change. However, the magnetic particles also offer the robots movement and the capacity to respond to the magnetic field by moving in that direction."

The scientists think that MPTM may be beneficial, albeit very particular, in solving technical and medical problems.

In addition to the "T2" demonstration, the scientists also utilized their bot to remove a foreign item from a model human stomach by melting over it and then wiggling out of the organ. This time, the bot took the more useful shape of a thin block.

Future research ought to investigate more how these robots may be employed in a biomedical setting, according to Majidi. "What we're demonstrating are simply one-off demonstrations, proofs of concept, and much more research will be needed to look into how this may truly be employed for medicine administration or for eliminating foreign things," the researchers write.

We can only hope that the amazing technology will serve that purpose rather than being employed to find the human race's John Connors.