Terminator-esque liquid metal could be used for deep-space missions

8 May 2020

Image: © miket/Stock.adobe.com

This week in future tech, researchers have revealed a new type of liquid metal that could be used in robotics or spacecraft.

The T-1000 robot in Terminator 2 caught cinemagoers’ attention by being able to morph into any shape using its liquid metal construction. Now, researchers are attempting to make real liquid metal robots, but for much more peaceful purposes.

In a paper published to Additive Manufacturing, Pu Zhang said that, along with colleagues, he had developed the first liquid metal lattice in the world. It is made from Field’s alloy – a mix of bismuth, indium and tin, which melts at temperatures as low as 62 degrees Celsius.

By combining the metal lattice material with a rubber shell, it is possible to control the overall shape and integrity of a robot. In testing, the team created a series of prototypes including spider web-like mesh antennas and even a Terminator-like hand that opens when the lattice melts.

Pu said that it might even be possible to use it in interplanetary spaceships. “A spacecraft may crash if it lands on the moon or Mars with some kind of impact,” he said.

“Normally, engineers use aluminium or steel to produce the cushion structures, but after you land on the moon, the metal absorbs the energy and deforms. It’s over; you can use it only once. Using this Field’s alloy, you can crash into it like other metals, but then heat it up later to recover its shape. You can use it over and over again.”

Flying car concept hoping to lift off soon

One of the latest start-ups hoping to make the first true commercial flying car has just taken off. Founded and led by Witold Mielniczek, the Beccarii car looks like an off-road racer with large wheels, each of which contains a set of propeller blades that would allow the car to take off vertically, similar to a drone.

While still very much in early development, Beccarii said that the vehicle will have a maximum speed of 120kph, both flying and driving. It will have a flying range of approximately 150km and a driving range of 400km.

While only suitable for one person, the flying car is powered by a combination of a gas turbine and an electric generator with an equivalent of 250 brake horsepower. One of the potential uses of the car, the team said, was as a fast-response ambulance.

“The biggest advantage is the fact that the vehicle can be used in any hospital, as it does not require a helipad,” it added.

Adapt researchers develop AI trained to search Covid-19 data

Researchers at the SFI Adapt Centre have developed eight neural machine translation systems for anyone to use to help translate information relating to Covid-19 published in German, French, Italian and Spanish into English, and vice versa.

A paper published describes how the systems were built on data and how they compare with well-known online translation systems. The researchers have given public online access to the systems, where users can select their language source and target translation via a drop-down menu and paste their text into the source panel.

The researchers behind the project include Prof Andy Way, Rejwanul Haque, Guodong Xie, Federico Gaspari, Maja Popovic and Alberto Poncelas.

Nokia and Vodafone Australia to unlock low-band 5G spectrum

Nokia and Vodafone Australia have announced that they are adding to their 3.5GHz 5G roll-out with the first deployment of low-band NR700MHz spectrum in a field test environment in a 5G network in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Once live, the 700MHz spectrum will be used to boost Vodafone’s indoor coverage of the high-speed internet standard.

“We are proud to be showcasing this innovative use of the lowest band spectrum available in Australia with the first live test deployment of 5G on low-band 700MHz spectrum in our region,” said Iñaki Berroeta, CEO of Vodafone Australia.

“Our partnership with Nokia has enabled us to deliver an innovative solution with our customers’ experience front of mind. Incorporating 700MHz spectrum will complement our existing 5G network plans and help deliver the benefits of 5G’s speed, capacity and coverage.”

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic