Programmable liquid metal could bring the villain from Terminator 2 to life

Scientists are developing liquid metal or "electric blood" that can move and form 2D shapes. This may revolutionize the field of soft robotics.

U.K. researchers have developed a liquid metal that can move and even form 2D shapes. Remember the T-1000 from Terminator 2, one of the most badass villains ever to grace the big screen? It could someday walk the Earth. Not presently though. The U.K. model can’t make 3D shapes, yet. Such technology, however, is poised to revolutionize certain industries.


Researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University, both in the U.K., developed this programmable liquid metal. These scientists were able to form it into a variety of shapes including several letters of the alphabet and a heart. So how does it work? Using electrical fields controlled by a computer, scientists were able to shape the liquid or make it move. Yutaka Tokuda is a research associate who worked on the project. He said in a press release:

This is a new class of programmable materials in a liquid state which can dynamically transform from a simple droplet shape to many other complex geometry in a controllable manner. While this work is in its early stages, 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. The electric fields used to shape the liquid are created by a computer, meaning that the position and shape of the liquid metal can be programmed and controlled dynamically.

A programmable liquid metal may someday be used to create a robot like the T-1000 from Terminator 2.

Prof. Sriram Subramanian, head of the INTERACT Lab at the University of Sussex, was the senior author of this study. He said in a press release that this technology is extremely promising. The liquid metal robot has unique properties, according to the professor, including “voltage-controlled surface tension, high liquid-state conductivity and liquid-solid phase transition at room temperature.”

He added, “One of the long-term visions of us and many other researchers is to change 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.”

This isn’t the only team working on controlling “electric blood” or liquid metal. IBM has been developing it through their REPCOOL project, since 2013. REPCOOL stands for redox flow electrochemistry for power delivery and cooling. It’s a project that seeks to model a computer after the human brain. Here, synthetic capillaries would bring the electrical blood to cool the computer and deliver energy to it.

Dr. Bruno Michel at IBM Research told Interesting Engineering, "Compared to today's top computers… the human brain is roughly 10,000 times denser and 10,000 times more energy-efficient.” He added, “The research team believes that their approach could reduce the size of a computer with a performance of 1 petaflop/s from the dimensions of a school classroom to that of an average PC, or in other words to a volume of about 10 liters (2.4 gallons)." A working model isn’t expected to be ready until 2030.

Researchers in the Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon University have also developed a liquid metal prototype, which they believe will replace transistors. They’ll form liquid transistors, which will be both versatile and self-repairing. The alloy is comprised of a combination of indium and gallium.

To see the liquid robot from the U.K., click here:

How getting in sync with your partner can lead to increased intimacy and sexual desire

Researchers discover a link between nonverbal synchronization and relationship success.

Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • Scientists say coordinating movements leads to increased intimacy and sexual desire in a couple.
  • The improved rapport and empathy was also observed in people who didn't know each other.
  • Non-verbal clues are very important in the development stages of a relationship.
Keep reading Show less

How humans evolved to live in the cold

Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Surprising Science
  • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
  • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
  • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
Keep reading Show less

Stan Lee, Marvel co-creator, is dead at 95

The comics titan worked for more than half a century to revolutionize and add nuance to the comics industry, and he built a vast community of fans along the way.

(Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Lee died shortly after being rushed to an L.A. hospital. He had been struggling with multiple illnesses over the past year, reports indicate.
  • Since the 1950s, Lee has been one of the most influential figures in comics, helping to popularize heroes that expressed a level of nuance and self-doubt previously unseen in the industry.
  • Lee, who's later years were marked by some financial and legal tumult, is survived by his daughter, Joan Celia "J.C." Lee.
Keep reading Show less