Science fiction is full of all sorts of bizarre and mind-blowing ideas. One of the most iconic in sci-fi history is the T-1000: a robot hunter from the future that was able to go from solid metal to liquid and back again at will.
It's a cool trick in a movie, but there's no way anything like that could really happen, right? Right?
Well, not quite yet, anyway.
But a group of scientists working out Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has come pretty close.
Using something they call magnetoactive phase transitional matter (MPTM), they've created a metal 'robot' that is able to go from a solid state to a liquid and back again.
In a demonstration, they made a LEGO man out of the metal, then had it escape a tiny jail cell by melting around the bars. Incredible!
Watch it here.
How is this possible? The secret is magnets!
The metal, called gallium, has a very low melting point—this means that it will melt at a relatively low temperature for a metal. The scientists then placed a bunch of super tiny magnetic microparticles inside the metal. These particles serve two purposes.
First, they make the robot controllable because it will respond to the pull of a magnetic field. And second, using a certain electromagnetic current, the microparticles in the metal can be made to vibrate super fast. This vibration causes heat, which then causes the metal to melt!
And there you have it, a melting robot.
If you watch the video, you can see this in action. In the first ten seconds, the scientists are moving the robot back and forth by using a magnet (that is the 'N/S' icon at the bottom of the screen). Then, they switch to using the excitable electromagnetic current, and the robot begins to melt!
Though the scientists admitted that they had to remold the robot themselves by hand at the end of the video, this is still an impressive feat. This technology could be used to help deliver medicine to targeted parts of the body, assemble tiny circuits, and so much more. Almost like the nanorobots Iron Man uses in the Avengers movies.
Tech truly is amazing stuff!
Wow! This is fascinating! I had no idea that this was even possible!