Scientists Create Real-Life T-1000 Terminator That Melts On Command

Photograph by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Photograph by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

How does real life resemble the plot of the movie? Terminator 2? Let me count your ways.

A terribly powerful artificial intelligence based on a neural network? Check.

Is humanity closer to the apocalypse than ever before? Check.

And a shape-shifting object made of liquid metal? By now, it would have been a miss. But researchers in the US and China have created an object made of microparticles embedded in liquid gallium that turns into a liquid that can pass through the bars of a lattice when heated with magnets, just like the T-1000 does in the movie.

Do not you believe me? See for yourself:

There’s an important caveat: The video the researchers made of the material’s great escape is stop motion. The material hardens on its own, but eventually had to be molded into the shape of the Lego minifigure. “We could have a melting T-1000. Carmel Majidi, a mechanical engineering researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who led the study, told The Daily Beast:

The study, which includes this absolutely chilling image, was published Jan. To be important. And yes, Terminator 2 The reference in the video was intentional.

“One of the original drafts of the paper referred to: Terminator and the T-1000, and actually I just pulled it out for copyright reasons or something,” said Majidi.

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While the recreated T-1000 scene is a fun demonstration of the material’s abilities, Majidi said the sea creatures are actually their real inspiration. For example, sea cucumbers can harden in the face of danger, a trait that has long fascinated materials science and robotics researchers. Such a feature can allow a device to maneuver in tight spaces while being soft, and then harden against wear and tear.

The research team based the new material on gallium, which is called a liquid metal because it melts at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They placed magnetic microparticles inside the metal that allowed it to move or be heated by magnets, then started testing it in different situations.

The material can also be helpful in removing foreign bodies from organs. To test this, the researchers put the material in a model of a human stomach filled with water, where it liquefied and wrapped around a steel ball. Then, when it solidified again, it was able to leave the stomach – within two minutes, making it a very viable practice.

“In practice, [a foreign] The object can cause gastrointestinal damage and even be life-threatening,” the authors wrote in the study.

Next, they created a capsule of material containing fluorescein sodium, a salt used to diagnose problems with the cornea. The researchers liquefied the material again, this time to deposit the salt in the false stomach, and tracked the spread of the model drug by the amount of water it stained. The material can even “scramble” the drug to diffuse faster when magnetic energy makes it spin in a circle.

“This article is quite fascinating to me and reminded me of that movie, TerminatorLi Zhang, a micro and nanorobotics researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who was not involved in the study, told The Daily Beast. “It would be great if we could design this T-1000 liquid metal-based robot on a very small scale and then put it inside our bodies for some medical tasks.”

Current soft robots and materials that can change from liquid to solid states generally don’t have a lot of mechanical strength, Zhang said. In contrast, this material’s ability to carry loads when solidified suggests that it could one day serve as “an extra hand for surgery” on a patient’s body, he said. One day even swallowing the surgeon may be real.

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But Zhang said he wished the researchers had chosen a different organ model for drug delivery and foreign body clearance experiments. “It’s not that hard to get to the stomach using the endoscope,” he said. “What I’m interested in is whether we can use this kind of technique, for example, in the small intestine, which is very long and tortuous.”

Majidi’s colleagues at Sun Yat-sen University in China were initially interested in these biomedical applications for the material, but after seeing what it could do, they decided to turn to extra non-medical experiments. The researchers then demonstrated the material’s ability to solder and repair an electrical circuit; flow into a socket and harden into a universal screw that can fit in any gap and support a weight of 10 kilograms; and of course melt like a T-1000 to escape a prison cell.

Gallium, microparticles and magnets are unlikely to replace career welders anytime soon, but there may be certain niche situations where this material could be helpful, Majidi said.

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“If you have easy access to a damaged area, you can weld manually,” he said. “This is more designed for situations where something is very difficult or impossible to reach; you can have electromagnets that control the surrounding magnetic field, but have difficulty reaching that area directly.”

Zhang, who has worked on designing soft robots for inaccessible regions, said such a region could be space.

Currently, Majidi is investigating the toxicity of liquid metals, including gallium, on living cells. Another wrinkle is that the human body sits at a temperature above the melting point of gallium. However, Majidi added that gallium-based alloys could be designed to increase this property.

Zhang said that if this material is to be used in biomedicine one day, it could be beneficial to integrate sensors or even an algorithm into a future shape-shifting device. Thanks to this, it will be able to navigate the human body on its own and “know” to release drugs at a certain time or in a certain area.

“If we really want to use this for medical applications, it will be important to consider inclusion. [these tools]to realize autonomy,” he said.

The T-1000 created by the researchers for demonstration was only a few millimeters tall, but Majidi said scaling the material would be no problem. Rather, larger amounts of energy (and therefore larger and larger magnets) are required to heat the material enough to melt it.

A life-size T-1000 that melts on command and has a mind of its own – haven’t we seen this movie before?

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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