in film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the first Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) saves Sarah and John Connor from a new generation of T-1000 liquidators from the future. The first thing that catches the attention of this robot is that it is so flexible that it deforms after receiving a blow or a bullet and immediately recombines itself. Now, Chinese and American researchers have created something similar to the T-1000, in a reduced version. Their creations, made of metal that melts at room temperature, can change from solid to liquid state at the will of their creators. In the experiments he conducted, he was able to escape prison by completely dissolving through the bars and reinserting himself on the other side. But it has also shown its ability to flush out a foreign object inside the stomach or solder an LED circuit.
The T-1000 in the James Cameron film was a prototype built by the rogue company Skynet, according to the script, with a “mimetic polyalloy” (sic) of liquid metal. Robot now presented in scientific journal Case It is also made with a matrix of the metal, gallium, which melts at 29.8 degrees when pure. I mean, it will melt in your hands. To this matrix he added alloying particles of three other elements, neodymium, iron and boron. With this, they enhanced the device’s response to magnetic fields.
The robot is called MPTM, an acronym for Magnetoactive Phase Transition Material. That is, a magnetic field at a certain intensity induces an electric current inside the gallium that generates heat, turning it from a solid to a liquid. Without reaching that limit, these magnetic fields are also what allow him to jump 20 times his height, make 1,500 revolutions per minute or move at a speed of one meter per second. It’s not quite as big as the T-1000 in the movie—it’s barely an inch off the ground—but it’s a real nuclear ant.
“The figure is similar in size to a Lego figurine and a magnetic field is used to melt it into liquid”
Carmel Majidi, Mechanical Engineer from Carnegie Mellon University (USA)
In a video (see above) distributed by the researchers, it can be seen how he escapes from a kind of prison through the bars in a liquid state and re-freezes outside the prison. Carmel Majidi, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (USA), explains what they have done: “The figure is similar in size to a commercial Lego figurine: about five millimeters wide and one centimeter high. . of a magnetic field.” It is used to melt it into a liquid and remove it from the enclosure. Just as gallium melts when it reaches 30 degrees, it solidifies below those degrees. And once through the bars, it becomes a hard metal. This does not prevent it from having the great hardness of other metals by melting in the hand.
Scientists did many experiments to see what their organism could do. In one, they turn it into a screw capable of reaching corners, encases the hole in its liquid form and seals it once it’s solid. In another, the MPTM acts as a soldering iron on an LED circuit, using itself as the solder. But, if it melts at room temperature, what will happen when the circuit gets hot while it is running?
“The gallium in the material acts as both a solder and a conductive material. Like other metals, it has high electrical conductivity, so it is very effective for connecting circuits”, explains Majidi, who solves the problem of change of state. accept. “Due to its low melting point, it is also possible for gallium to soften and melt when the circuit is heated. It will still be conductive in the liquid state, so this will not affect its performance. However, to prevent it from leaking or spilling , it has to be sealed with rubber or other soft insulating material,” he says. Majidi is director of the Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon, so his field is soft materials from crystals to liquid metals, so he doesn’t worry much about that their MPTM would melt easily: “Most of my research has focused on circuits made of liquid metal. In which the conductive material remains liquid during circuit operation. As long as the metal is properly sealed and insulated, you generally don’t have to worry about leaks,” he says.
For its creators, MPTM may have relevant medical applications. Using a water-filled model of an artificial abdomen, he solved two very common problems in medicine. In one of them, he led the robot to a foreign body, which had to be removed from there. Once next to him, the magnet melted the robot that embraced the object, a small ball. Once it cooled, he quickly got it out again by playing with the magnets. In another, what they tested was the administration of a drug wrapped in MPTM. After being taken to where it was needed, it melted, was released. In a note, Changfeng Pan, an engineer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and co-author of the paper, commented that “giving robots the ability to switch between liquid and solid states gives them greater functionality.” The next thing, Pan says, is to “promote this system of materials to solve very specific medical and engineering problems.” This is another great advantage of magnetism, which travels through bodies or objects to places where there is no other way to do it.
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