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New progress in liquid metal research: Terminator transforming robot may become a reality

Aug 22, 2020

New progress in liquid metal research: Terminator transforming robot may become a reality

   Speaking of the final form of liquid metal, everyone will definitely think of liquid metal like T-1000 in Terminator 2 that can deform and repair itself. The research results of researchers from North Carolina State University are one step closer to this goal. Researchers have discovered a way to use low voltage to control the surface tension of liquid metal. This research opens up the feasibility of research in the field of deformable electronic circuits. Perhaps in the future, deformable circuits formed by liquid metals, such as T-1000, can become deformable and self-healing robots.

   The liquid metal used in this research is an alloy of gallium and indium, which forms a solid solution alloy that can become liquid at room temperature. Another feature used by the researchers is the extremely high surface tension of this solid solution alloy: about 500 mN/m, which makes the alloy droplets always tend to be spherically distributed without interference from external forces. On the surface of the object.

   Researchers found that by applying a low voltage to this alloy droplet, the liquid metal will significantly reduce the surface tension of , so that the alloy tends to spread out rather than aggregate into a spherical shape. When no voltage is applied, the alloy immediately restores its original surface tension and the droplets return to a spherical shape. The applied voltage can change the amount of surface tension of the alloy, and the range can be changed within 2~500mN/m.

   The following demonstration shows that this liquid metal can change its shape in the capillary or mold by changing the voltage. If the alloy is used as an antenna, it can receive signals of different wavelengths and frequencies by changing its shape. Dr. Michael Dickey, a research team leader at North Carolina State University and an assistant professor of biochemical engineering, said: “By manipulating the surface tension of the alloy with a voltage of less than one volt, we can use this technology to control the flow of liquid metal to form an antenna that can change its shape. Or controllable closed circuits can also be used in microfluidic channels, MEMS microelectromechanical systems, or optical instruments. With the help of a variety of oxide material layers, this technology can go further."