A miniature robot with shape-shifting powers can escape from a cage by turning into liquid. The property of changing shape makes it possible to use the robot in question to enter areas that are difficult to access. This robot will eventually be able to perform the soldering process or extract ingested toxic substances without the intervention of human hands.
Today, robots have been produced that can be used in very narrow places due to their flexibility. Examples of these robots are those that are used in the human body. Robots cannot make their structure stronger and stronger under intense pressure.
Carmel Majidi and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University of Pennsylvania have succeeded in producing a new robot that not only changes shape but also increases or decreases its strength by becoming solid or liquid depending on the conditions.
According to the magazine New ScientistThe robot in question, which has dimensions of millimeters, consists of a combination of gallium (liquid metal) and microscopic pieces of magnetic material made of neodymium, iron and boron. The mentioned composite material is so strong in its solid state that it can withstand up to 30 times its weight. To soften, stretch and move or melt said material, scientists place it near a magnet. The magnetic field caused by the magnet exerts force on the small magnetic pieces in the robot and makes them move.
Scientists used a magnetic field that applied force to pieces of magnets in different directions to stretch the robot’s body. The scientists also used a stronger field to pull the magnet pieces upwards and make the robot jump.
Majidi and his colleagues went for another magnetic field that changed over time to apply force to the magnet pieces in different directions. As a result of using this field, the electrons in the liquid metal of the robot created an electric current. Passing this current inside the body of the robot caused the temperature to rise and eventually melt it. “As far as I know, no other material can change its stiffness to this extent,” says Majidi.
During their experimental project, the scientists had two robots carry a small light bulb and solder it to a circuit board. After carrying the lamp, the robots melted on its edges to connect the lamp to the circuit board. Due to the presence of liquid metal, electricity passed through the body of the robots and the lamp turned on.
In an experiment conducted inside an artificial stomach, the scientists applied another set of magnetic fields to guide the robot to its target and pull it out of the stomach after melting.
Finally, scientists made another example of the robot in the form of Lego minifigures. By melting, the robot was able to pass through the bars and escape from the cage. After crossing the bars, the robot returned from the liquid state to the solid state.
In theory, melting robots can be used when human hands or traditional robots are no longer useful.