Liquid Metal Brings Soft Robotics One Step Closer to Terminator 2
In 1991, Terminator 2 introduced us to a “soft” robot made from then-futuristic shape-shifting technology arrived from the future — seemingly impervious to all weapons.
The special effects were stunning; the morphing metal shone like chrome and flowed like water. Bullets passed through the self-healing material as if it were butter.
Fast-forward to March 2018. Researchers at the University of Sussex in England have applied electrical charges to “liquid metal” allowing them to manipulate the material into 2-D shapes — so far, simple numbers and letters.
A computer controls the electrical activity so that the metal is programmable and dynamic. Simple, but with far-reaching implications for the soft robotics field.
Professor Sriram Subramanian, project head, said,“Liquid metal technologies are an extremely promising class of materials for deformable applications. One of our long-term visions is a programmable liquid metal that changes the physical shape, appearance and functionality of any object through digital control to create intelligent, dexterous and useful objects that exceed the functionality of any current display or robot.”
While a liquid metal terminator androids are a good ways off, researchers are considering possibilities like re-programmable circuit boards and conductive ink.
“The compelling evidence of detailed 2D control of liquid metals excites us to explore more potential applications in computer graphics, smart electronics, soft robotics and flexible displays,” said Research Associate Yutaka Tokuda.
Defying Physics by Breaking the Laws of Thermodynamics
As modern and rational beings, we have come to rely on certain irrefutable natural laws. The sun rises and sets. The planet rotates around the sun. Out of all of these, the laws of physics and thermodynamics, a branch of physics, have defined humans’ relationship to heat, temperature, energy, work, radiation, and matter. But what happens when the laws of physics are defied? Such may be the case with instances in which scientists claim to have broken the laws of thermodynamics.
But before we dive into these cases, it’s important to understand the actual laws, so we can better understand the ways in which they might be broken.