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Science Technology

First Liquid Machines Presage Soft Robots 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-make-sure-we-keep-arnold-close-at-hand dept.
KentuckyFC writes "The technology behind the T-1000 assassin in the Terminator movies might as well be science fiction as far as modern manufacturing is concerned. But we're making progress — thanks to some work by Chinese engineers who have perfected a way to make liquid metals assume various shapes and switch from one to another with the flick of a switch. These guys placed a thin film of gallium-indium-selenium alloy (melting point 10.5 degrees C) in water and applied an electric field. The balance between the surface tension of the metal and the electric forces on its surface then caused the metal to form a ball. They can move the sphere around, combine it with other spheres, and even use it to rotate the water. The engineers say this is the first step toward smart liquid machines that can assume almost any shape. And since the alloy is biologically benign, these machines could be used with, and even inside humans. Their next goal is to create a set of parallel electrodes that cause the metal to form into an undulating worm-shape that can propel itself along."
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First Liquid Machines Presage Soft Robots

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    A knife is also biologically benign, just not mechanically.

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by L1mewater (557442) on Friday February 21, 2014 @12:37PM (#46304797)
    "The technology behind the T-1000 assassin in the Terminator movies might as well be science fiction" Might it? Might it really?
    • by jpvlsmv (583001)

      "The technology behind the T-1000 assassin in the Terminator movies might as well be science fiction"

      Might it? Might it really?

      Or it might be pop-media drivel written to draw money from moviegoers without any actual science or fiction (much less both)

  • Their next goal is to create a set of parallel electrodes that cause the metal to form into an undulating worm-shape that can propel itself along."

    .... and somewhere, porn of this will exist.
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Rule 34. No Exceptions.
    • Their next goal is to create a set of parallel electrodes that cause the metal to form into an undulating worm-shape that can propel itself along." .... and somewhere, porn of this does exist.

      ftfy

  • And here I thought the explanation of how the T-2000 worked sounded like utter bullshit when I saw the movie, requiring suspension of disbelief. Except, of course, this stuff doesn't turn completely solid.

    • Re:How about that (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gnick (1211984) on Friday February 21, 2014 @01:00PM (#46304943) Homepage

      I can't get to the link and know no more about this metal except from the summary, but it sounds like it would be solid below 10.5 C - Not that cold. With sufficient sophistication (i.e. FAR beyond turning into a ball), you could imagine some solid "cool" pieces with "warm" joints.

      But then again, with "sufficient sophistication," 3-d scanners/printers and electron microscopes could give us teleportation and/or human duplication capabilities. Yep, sci-fi and suspension of disbelief. But the idea that we might be so advanced that we could build pneumatic tubes as a means of trans-Atlantic message passing seemed impossibly advanced 150 years ago. And we beat the hell out of that one.

      [Yeah, I realize I just posted 3 "buts," all of them big. Well, I like big "buts" and I cannot lie.]

  • Is there a video of this somewhere? The links do not show much of the process.

  • In these examples the machine is outside the metal. The liquid metal is just a passive substance being manipulated and moved. It will be something when the manipulation device itself is mutable.

    • by gnick (1211984)

      You could conceivably imagine a non-mutable core in charge of external communication and manipulation.

  • Yes, this technology (I admit it, I RTFA, sorry) looks totally scalable! I can hardly wait until we've got giant morphing robots - I'm guessing, what, 5 years from now until we see these available commercially?
  • Soft robots have been with us for decades. [youtube.com]

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      I came here to say this. Except your example is horrid - putting a fuzzy plush covering over a normal robot does not make it a "soft".

      There has however been a fair amount of research into various soft-material robots, mostly using pneumatics or electro-stimulated plastics to provide motive forces. A crude tentacle:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

      Then there's the robots which are technically "hard", but have so many degrees of freedom they appear "soft", like this "elephant-trunk" with semi-soft conformin

  • There's a real UK military project called Skynet, and now we have liquid metal robots. Time to be officially freaked out.

  • Deja Vu [youtube.com].

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