Robots can go from liquid to solid state

Do you remember in Terminator 2 when the cyborg policeman goes through the bars of the mental hospital? And many little metal robots manage to do it today!

Terminator 2
Photo credit: Allo Ciné.

It’s a scene that marked the history of cinema when, in Terminator 2, the villainous cyborg disguised as a policeman passes through the bars of a door of the psychiatric hospital where he came to eliminate Sarah Connor. The head of the hospital department, who witnessed the scene, lost the syringe he was holding in his mouth because it seemed impossible at the time more than thirty years ago.

Today, scientists from the University of Hong Kong have managed to reproduce this scene thanks to a small metallic robot that they have developed. This robot is thus able to pass from the solid state to the liquid state and vice versa in a few moments. They claim not to have been inspired by the film but by a sea animal, the sea cucumber, which is also able to change from a soft to a solid state quickly.

A transformation made possible by fusion and magnets

The video below shows that the experiment filmed by the University of Hong Kong scientists is similar to the scene in the film. Their small robot which is behind the bars will liquefy to pass between these bars in the liquid state. Once outside, a cooling system will allow it to regain its solid state and its original appearance as a small robot.

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One of the leaders of this experiment, Carmel Majidi, explains that it is magnets that allow this transformation: “ The magnetic particles have two roles here… On the one hand, they make the material sensitive to an alternating magnetic field, so that one can, by induction, heat the material and cause the phase change. On the other hand, magnetic particles give robots mobility and the ability to move in response to the magnetic field. »

Fusion is the other condition that makes this change of form possible. The particles are placed in gallium, a very special metal which has a very low melting point, just 30 degrees Celsius. This robot not only passed through the bars but also managed to pass over walls or split in two to reattach again. A real Terminator.

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