The shape-shifting Terminator T-1000 robot which appeared in the 1990s film franchise could become a reality after a breakthrough in liquid-metal technology, scientists have claimed.
The researchers managed to create switches and pumps that operate by themselves out of a liquid metal alloy. And they said the technique could be used to create electronic devices that act more like living tissue – or even a version of the fearsome T-1000.
In the films, the robot appears virtually indestructible as it can quickly repair any damage. It can also take on any appearance it likes and slide under doors or through the bars of a prison cell.
The current research is some distance from achieving anything so complex.
A team of engineers at RMIT University in Melbourne began by putting a droplet of liquid metal into water and discovered they were able to make primitive machines.
Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, who led the work, said: “We adjusted the concentrations of acid, base and salt components in the water and investigated the effect. Simply tweaking the water's chemistry made the liquid metal droplets move and change shape, without any need for external mechanical, electronic or optical stimulants.
“Using this discovery, we were able to create moving objects, switches and pumps that could operate autonomously – self-propelling liquid metals driven by the composition of the surrounding fluid.
“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.”
However he admitted the level of programming needed to build a liquid metal robot would need to be substantially more complex than the current method.
As well as being able to change into virtually any kind of shape, metal in liquid form retains a highly-conductive metallic core and a thin semiconducting skin, which are essential for making electronic circuits.
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