First Terminator-1000-like liquid motor developed with unlimited potential

13 Mar 2015

Sparking fear and awe alike, a new shape-shifting liquid motor has been developed, similar in style to the metal seen in the T-1000 in Terminator 2 that will one day actually be used in robot design.

With no moving parts, the motor is created thanks to the wonders of chemical reactions which, in this case, is a metal alloy called gallium which is mixed with indium and tin at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius.

When given its ‘fuel’ in the shape of a flake of aluminium and placed in a solution of sodium hydroxide, the liquid ball comes to life and begins moving independently and, more importantly, can shape itself to navigate its way through different obstacles.

According to New Scientist, the breakthrough was made by a team from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China who when they first discovered the liquid motor’s unique ability, they were perplexed as to how it actually happened.

More Flubber than T-1000?

It was only after further investigation did they find that it was the result of two different chemical mechanisms at play, the first of which is the result of a charge imbalance causing a drop in pressure that pushes it forward, while the hydrogen bubbles created by the introduction of aluminium acts as the motor’s catalyst.

The second use of the science-fiction-like motor showed that when kept stationary, it could act as a pump in a circular system pushing liquid around shifting 50mm of water every second which one of the researchers, Jing Liu, says is the first ever self-powered pump.

Describing the motor’s potential, Liu went on to say that it could one day be used as the basis for a T-1000-style robot, or even shrunk and inserted into human blood vessels for monitoring.

But speaking to New Scientist, Taro Toyota of the University of Tokyo says that, at least for him, the potential is more optimistic than the one shown in the form of the T-1000, “Such liquid robots will be a seed of artificial life seen in some movies. I would raise Flubber instead of Terminator 2.”

Liquid metal image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic