Revolutionary Shapeshifting Robot Can Liquify and Regain Shape

Scientists from China have created a shapeshifting robot that can liquify and regain shape, a breakthrough that could have significant implications for the fields of electronic assembly and medicine. The research team, led by engineer Chengfeng Pan of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, embedded microscopic magnetic particles into liquid metal, which allowed them to heat and cool the metal based on adjusting the magnetic functions.

A video released by the researchers shows the small robot locked up in a prison, melting to the ground and then immediately regaining its shape after coming out by cooling down. The inspiration for the robot came from sea cucumber, which can alter the stiffness of their tissues to improve load capacity and limit physical damage.

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To create the robot, the researchers used gallium, a soft metal that has a melting point of 29.76 degrees Celsius. They embedded a mixture of gallium with magnetic particles, which created a “magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional machine”, according to the scientists. “The magnetic particles here have two roles. One is that they make the material responsive to an alternating magnetic field, so you can, through induction, heat up the material and cause the phase change. But the magnetic particles also give the robots mobility and the ability to move in response to the magnetic field,” said mechanical engineer Carmel Majidi of Carnegie Mellon University, one of the authors of the study.

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The scientists are now aiming for real-world applications of the machine but they say it needs tweaking for that. The ability to overcome the limitations of traditional robots makes this shapeshifting robot a promising development in the field of robotics and medicine.

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