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Chinese Scientists To Advance Liquid Robot Technology
Chinese scientists have developed a liquid metal based robot that comprise of a plastic wheel, a mini lithium battery and drops of liquid metal. The robot is able to operate when the voltage of the battery is altered as this induces the liquid metal to change the centre of gravity and cause the robot’s wheel to roll.
Inspired by the liquid metal robot, T-1000, that was featured in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator films, Li Xiangpeng, a Robotics Professor at Soochow University in Suzhou in China, had designed the liquid metal robot prototype along with Zhang Shiwu from the University of Science and Technology of China, and researchers from the University of Wollongong in Australia. Their research was published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials two weeks ago and the team intends to use the prototype that has been developed to design soft robots that are able to mimic living organisms using liquid metal alloys that possess properties such as high electrical conductivity, controllable surface tension and extreme flexibility.
Tang Shiyang, a Research Fellow with the University of Wollongong, who was also part of the team has said, “In the future, we expect to further develop soft robots incorporating liquid metal that could be used in special missions such as searching for and rescuing earthquake victims, since they can change shape to slide under doors or make it through spaces humans can’t get into.” He has also added that, “[The team] think[s that] liquid metal alloys could help with the development of self-reconfiguring robots that can change their own shape.”
To add to the possibilities that soft robots can offer, Professor Li has also mentioned that, “tiny nano-robots could deliver cancer drugs and hunt down tumour cells inside the human body, given its flexibility and high energy conversion rate,” and these robots could also be used by the military for espionage purposes.
Moving forward, the team is looking to build a robot that is similar to BB-8 from the Star Wars films, with a free-moving domed head as well as incorporate multiple wheels into their current liquid metal prototype so as to allow the robot to move in a three-dimensional environment. This could lead to a new way of rolling wheels that can be utilised in the future for cars that are built to run without fossil fuels or electric motors.
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