Scientists Have Invented a Shapeshifting Metal for Our Robotic Overlords

There’s no place to hide now.

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Mar 10 2015, 5:05pm

​We now have to worry about metal becoming self-aware.

Chinese scientists are now transforming the typically tough and hard-to-bend material into a shape-shifting and slithering material of the future. You know, like the T-1000 robot from Terminator 2.

How's that possible? In this video from New Scientist, a metal alloy ball is mutated into the world's "first self-fuelled liquid metal motor" with is made mostly of gallium, a liquid that melts at room temperature.

After that, the ball is dropped into a sodium hydroxide mixture and given a drop of aluminum, which then spurs bubbles and helps the material condense into different shapes depending on its surroundings. It can glide its way around bends and skid through tight openings.

This video showing its uses is freakishly cool. First, if the droplet is held in place in a tight spot, it can act as a self-powered motor that could be used as a cooling device without the need for external wires. That could result in some real-world applications, like how ​liquid-cooledcomputers work.

Also, if an electrical current is popped into the droplet, it makes all types of crazy shapes but then magically converts back into a ball after the current is removed.

Besides being incredibly cool to watch, researchers told the N​ew Scientist they hope the discovery can create devices using the metal for health purposes, such as delivering materials within blood vessels.

Or perhaps there's more sinister use for it: shape-shifting robots.

"The soft machine looks rather intelligent and [can] deform itself according to the space it voyages in, just like [the] Terminator does from the science-fiction film," Jing Liu from Tsinghua University in Beijing told the publication. "These unusual behaviours perfectly resemble the living organisms in nature."