It’s the rise of the machines – a Chinese research team has developed shape-shifting, liquid metal machines. No, this isn’t the idea for a new “Terminator” sequel. Scientists from both the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University’s medical school discovered that their liquid metal is able to “eat” materials and use energy from that to propel itself forward.
Their findings were published in a recent issue of Advanced Materials journal.
“The soft machine looks rather intelligent and (can) deform itself according to the space it voyages in, just like (the) Terminator does from the science-fiction film,” Tsinghua University researcher Jing Liu told Technology.org. “These unusual behaviors perfectly resemble the living organisms in nature.”
The machine’s design is very simple, reports Technology.org. The motor is made from a material called galinstan, which is an alloy derived from gallium, indium, and tin. The machine stays liquid when situated at room temperature. Through various experiments, the research team placed the object in various materials like sodium hydroxide, and was placed in close contact to a flake of aluminum.
This flake was the fuel that the machine then “ate.” The alloy digests the flake for fuel, allowing the liquid motor to roam around on its own for around an hour.
In the paper, the researchers define the object as something of a synthetic organism — a bio-mimetic “mollusk.”
This technology isn’t going to take over the world anytime soon. So far, the machine only moves at about 2 inches per second, according to Engadget.