Liquid metal study a step toward elastic electronics

Although the T-1000 is long way off, researchers say small, autonomous entities could be created based on recent research.

By Stephen Feller

MELBOURNE, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Creating a real life T-1000 Terminator -- the liquid metal adversary in Terminator 2 -- is a long way off, but researchers in Australia say they've taken the first step toward electronics using liquid metal.

Liquid metal would allow for elastic electronics with versatility today's brittle electronic circuits do not have, but researchers are just starting to understand how metals could move autonomously.


In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at RMIT University in Australia explain a step forward in the development of liquid metals by learning how they move autonomously in water.

"Putting droplets in another liquid with an ionic content can be used for breaking symmetry across them and allow them to move about freely in three dimensions, but so far we have not understood the fundamentals of how liquid metal interacts with surrounding fluid," Kourosh Lakantar-zadeh, a professor in the school of engineering at RMIT University, said in a press release.

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When the researchers adjusted concentrations of acid, base and salt components in the water, droplets of the metal gallium -- which is malleable, with a highly-conductive metallic core and an atomically thin, semiconducting oxide skin -- move and change shape without any external stimulus.


The discovery allowed the scientists to create moving objects, switches and pumps that operated more or less autonomously based on the liquid surrounding them.

In the short term, the scientists think they can use their new understanding of liquid metal to create small entities entirely controlled with fluids that can autonomously move and accomplish tasks. They do, however, have far loftier long-term goals.

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"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 but with better programming," Kalantar-zadeh said.

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