Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
I'll be back! Scientists invent robot that can melt and escape cage like terrifying Terminator 2 villain the T-1000
26 January 2023, 15:15 | Updated: 26 January 2023, 15:20
Robot escapes cage by liquifying and reforming in study
Scientists have invoked many film fans' worst nightmares and created a miniature robot that can pass through metal bars by melting and reshaping itself just like the villain from Terminator 2.
The blockbuster sequel sees Arnold Schwarzenegger take on a T-1000, an evil killer machine that could shape itself into the shape of a human or transform into a puddle of liquid to evade obstacles.
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have managed to make their own miniature version by enriching gallium – which melts at 30.6C – with magnetic particles.
Shaped like a small humanoid and placed in a cage, the figure was exposed to an alternating magnetic field.
That increased its temperature, allowing it to melt into a puddle outside of the cage, passing through its bars, before it reformed and cooled down after the magnetic field was disabled.
It managed to rebuild within 80 seconds of it being turned off.
It is a breakthrough in the physical abilities of robots, which previously needed electrical currents, heat guns or some kind of external heat source to change states between solid and liquid.
For many it will invoke memories of the T-1000, which in a famous scene gets trapped behind metal bars as the Terminator 2 heroes believe they have escaped it.
However, it melts into a liquid before reforming on the other side. It is even able to shape its arms into long blades or crowbar-style shapes.
Fortunately, the scientists behind it have more noble ideas in mind.
Chengfeng Pan, an engineer from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who led the study, said: "Now, we're pushing this material system in more practical ways to solve some very specific medical and engineering problems."
Carmel Majidi, a senior author and mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon, said: "Future work should further explore how these robots could be used within a biomedical context.
"What we're showing are just one-off demonstrations, proofs of concept, but much more study will be required to delve into how this could actually be used for drug delivery or for removing foreign objects."