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Robot shifts from solid to liquid to escape cage just like in Terminator 2

Robot shifts from solid to liquid to escape cage just like in Terminator 2

This shape-shifting robot is a far cry from C-3PO in Star Wars or Tesla's Optimus.

Sometimes a new scientific development is announced, and it sends a shiver down your spine.

Case in point: recent research about a shape-shifting robot.

That's right, researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Carnegie Mellon University used their scientific skills to create a human-shaped robot that literally escaped jail by melting down into a solid, and reforming on the other side.

For the project, scientists were inspired by how sea cucumbers can morph between rigid and flaccid states.

A video of the experiment truly is remarkable - the small robot melts itself down into a liquid pool, breaks out of prison, then reforms on the other side, like nothing ever happened.

You can't help but watch it and think of 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, when a terrifying new robot called T-1000 (played by Robert Patrick) shapeshifts through metal bars, like his body is made of water, while hunting down Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong).

Luckily, the robot of the experiment had less murderous intentions (we can only hope).

2022 Elsevier Inc
2022 Elsevier Inc

It was made out of a new type of material called a 'magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional machine' by researchers - essentially made by embedding magnetic particles into gallium, a metal with a very low melting point.

“The magnetic particles here have two roles,” said senior author and mechanical engineer Carmel Majidi of Carnegie Mellon University. “One is that they make the material responsive to an alternating magnetic field, so you can, through induction, heat up the material and cause the phase change. But the magnetic particles also give the robots mobility and the ability to move in response to the magnetic field.”

When you think of robots, your mind likely turns to heavy metal structures like C-3PO in Star Wars or Tesla's Optimus. This liquifying robot is a far cry from that - and could have a whole lot more uses.

"Giving robots the ability to switch between liquid and solid states endows them with more functionality,” said study lead Chengfeng Pan, an engineer at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

And breaking out of jail isn't the only thing the robot was able to do. Researchers also had it jump over moats, climb walls and split in half to move around an object, before coming back together - all with the help of a magnetic field.

“Now, we’re pushing this material system in more practical ways to solve some very specific medical and engineering problems,” Pan said.

It's early days, but this kind of research could have some incredible medical uses - including removing foreign objects from inside the body or delivering targeted drugs. Researchers suggest the material could also be used as 'soldering robots for wireless circuit assembly and repair' - which sounds a whole lot less terrifying than T-1000 breaking out of jail.

Featured Image Credit: Chinese University of Hong Kong/Tri-Star Pictures