Have you ever broken a thermometer? No, not the present swanky tech ones. I am talking about the good old mercury thermometer. I have and let me tell you that the aftermath was fascinating. The drops of metal that fell on the floor were almost spherical and the clumps flowed like liquid. Though, getting it off the floor was a project in itself.
If you have not experienced this first hand then I bet you have seen the iconic scene from Terminator where we are introduced to T-1000, the assassin robot entirely made of liquid metal. It could shape-shift and self-heal. He did not need to lie on the bed to button up his skinny jeans, he could fit into anything!
Now, imagine this to be a reality. A group of researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have actually managed to make liquid metal circuits. A few years back they made a working pump using liquid metal. The breakthrough was that the pump had no mechanical parts at all. Now they have moved on to switches made of liquid metal that work on their own.
As per one of the researchers, Professor Kourosh, the invention works not by changing the liquid metal but by tweaking the water around it. They changed the “concentration of acid, base and salt components in the water” and observed how that made the molten metal go in motion. Without the help of any external force or outside stimulation the liquid metal would change shape and begin to move. He further opines “eventually, using the fundamentals of this discovery, it may be possible to build a 3D liquid metal humanoid on demand – like the T-1000 Terminator.”
Source – Comic Vine
The ultimate goal here is to make electronic devices and systems that will work like “living cells”. The inside of our bodies is in a constant state of movement. Our cells have the ability to develop and change. Likewise, the same could be done for gadgets with the help of liquid metals. This will create what the researchers term as “flexible electronics”.
But how does this concern us? At present all our electronics are made of circuits that have a fixed state. We can not command or program our MacBook Air to ‘please change into one iPhone, one iPod and an iPad’. It is stuck in the form it is built in. But with this milestone technology of self-propelling liquid metal, electronics can gain this freedom. Eventually.
This technology could now take two paths: mighty robots or opening up new ways to treat diseases. Whichever it may be, it would be a hallmark day in history. But that date is far far off, as the programming and know-how required to make such lofty technology is far complex than what they have built at present.
You can watch how the liquid metals work independently, here:
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