Scientists Develop Terminator-Like Liquid Metal

The movies that we used to watch in sheer awe because of the featured amazing technologies are becoming a reality. A team of scientists has developed a liquid metal that can survive getting stretched and pulled in all directions – reminds you of the Terminator movies, right? A paper that covers the details of this amazing technological breakthrough has been published in the Applied Materials & Interfaces journal with a video that showcases the unique material.

The metal is able to withstand twisting and pulling by magnets. It can also be used for closing a circuit. The American Chemical Society has explained the research that was carried out by scientists at the Beihang University in China. The ACS says, ‘They added iron particles to a droplet of a gallium, indium and tin alloy immersed in hydrochloric acid. A gallium oxide layer formed on the droplet surface, which lowered the surface tension of the liquid metal.’

This enables the metal to stretch out and move without breaking itself apart. A lot of metals are liquid at room temperature including gallium and some alloys. These metals that have a low melting point demonstrate interesting properties including high conductivity and can be manipulated to high degrees.

These amazing properties render them as the ideal choice for use in electronics and soft robotics. They can be manipulated with ease by magnets if magnetic particles are incorporated into these metals. However, since these metals possess high surface tension; they can be manipulated only on a horizontal plane and require complete submersion in a liquid for stopping the liquid from becoming a dry paste during the movement.

The research team from Beihang University in China that included Liang Hu and Jing Liu aimed to develop a liquid metal that would be able to counter these restraints. They were successful in accomplishing this by working with the metal while it was submerged in liquid. Iron particles were imparted to a droplet of gallium, tin alloy, and indium immersed in hydrochloric acid.

As a result, a gallium oxide layer is formed on the surface of the droplet. This lowered the liquid metal’s surface tension. At this particular moment, the researchers used two magnets to pull it in different directions manipulating its shape. By making use of this technique, they were able to stretch the droplet to almost four times the resting length. The liquid metal was also used for lighting up an LED bulb when it was incorporated into a simple circuit.

The metal was also capable of moving vertically and horizontally for connecting two electrodes. One of the electrodes was exposed to the air while the other one was submerged in hydrochloric acid. This led to the demonstration that the metal didn’t have to be fully submerged for retaining its amazing properties.