Scientists have created robots that "mutate" from a liquid, to a solid state and vice versa. It is essentially a shape-shifting robot.
Scientists have created a humanoid robot that can switch from a solid state to a liquid state, in what many believe is a massive leap forward in robotics. This peculiar characteristic allows the robot to navigate and move through obstacles that would otherwise not be possible. Since the newly developed robots can be both soft and solid, they are able to overcome the limitations of previous models that are just one or the other. Therefore, they have the potential to provide greater utility in areas such as electronics assembly and even medical applications. To show off the abilities of the new robots, the researchers made them go through obstacle courses, retrieve or deliver objects to a model of the human stomach, and even liquefy themselves to escape from a cage before returning to their original humanoid form.
What these robots are useful for
Now that scientists have developed robots that can function in different states, such as solids and liquids, it opens a plethora of doors, enabling them to perform many previously unavailable tasks. There are many potential uses for the tiny robots as they can get around places too small or complicated for humans to handle with typical tools. They can perform repair jobs and deliver targeted medications.
While this is certainly a massive advancement in robotics, scientists say that hard materials aren’t the best for navigating in confined spaces or at tight angles, while soft, more flexible robots tend to be flimsy and harder to control. This is why scientists need to find a balance between the two. To make it happen, the team of researchers turned to nature for inspiration. Animals such as sea cucumbers can alter the stiffness of their tissues to improve carrying capacity and limit physical damage. Octopuses can alter the stiffness of their arms for camouflage, manipulation of objects, and movement. Therefore, scientists embedded a gallium matrix with magnetic particles, creating what they call a “magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transition machine.”
What this means
The scientists explained that the magnetic particles here have two functions. One function is that they make the material respond to an alternating magnetic field. This allows it, through induction, to heat the material and cause a phase change. But magnetic particles also give robots mobility and the ability to move in response to the magnetic field. A paper describing the functionality of the robots has been published in Matter.