Terminators Coming Already? Liquid Robots on the Way!

Science Fields

Shape-shifting robots made of liquid are evolving from science fiction to reality.

Reminiscent of the character from the future in Terminator 2, this robot can melt and resolidify itself upon command. With this ability, the expert suggests that it can pass through narrow places –a means to break out of prison, on a cinematic note.

For designing these new robots, the inspiration came from sea cucumbers, which can reversibly alter the stiffness of their tissues, thereby preventing physical damage from their environment by increasing or decreasing the amount of force that can be applied.

Scientists have actually been producing magnetically controllable, soft-structured robots for years. Still, these robots are either composed of elastic structures that are not able to pass through tight places or of liquid metals that cannot carry even the most minor loads. To overcome these obstacles, they created a new material called the “magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transition machine,” or MPTM.

To make the phase-shifting robot, the researchers used microscopic magnetic bits of neodymium, boron, and iron in low-melting liquid gallium to solidify.

The magnetic particles here have two roles. First, by using induction, you can heat the material, which has become sensitive to a rapidly changing magnetic field, and trigger a controlled phase change. Second, the robots can move in response to the magnetic field.

Researchers have obtained successful results even in tests done so far. The material can be used as soldering robots for assembling and repairing wireless circuits, and may even be used as a universal mechanical screw for assembling hard-to-reach parts –as it can melt into a threaded screw socket and then solidify. They also used MPTM to remove a foreign object from a model stomach and to deliver drugs on demand into the same stomach.

The next important step is to achieve important tasks in certain tight spots inside the human body by precisely controlling magnetic fields.




  • 1. https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/shapeshifting-solid-liquid-robot/
  • 2. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/robot-shape-shifting-gallium-melt-reform-magnetic-fields
  • 3. https://www.livescience.com/terminator-2-robot-inspired-by-sea-cucumbers