A Huge Breakthrough in Robotics: Shapeshifting Robots
Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery in robotics – shapeshifting robots that can transition between liquid and metal states to maneuver challenging environments. With their dual soft/hard composition, these sea cucumber-inspired bots exceed the limitations of traditional rigid or fluid robots and could be utilized for various purposes such as electronics assembly, medical applications, etc.
These New Shapeshifting Robots Might Have Many Potential Uses.
Engineer Chengfeng Pan of The Chinese University of Hong Kong in China states, “By allowing robots to interchange between liquid and solid forms, their capabilities become much more formidable.” To construct a robotic shape-shifter with the same ability, researchers had to search for a nontoxic material that could easily transition from softness and rigidity at room temperature. The scientists decided to employ gallium, a malleable metal with a melting temperature of 29.76 degrees Celsius (85.57°F), just below the regular human body heat.
Such shapeshifting robots were capable of hopping over small moats, scrambling across obstacles, and even dividing themselves into smaller entities that could complete cooperative tasks, including manipulating objects before merging back together and solidifying again.
Although It Is too Early to Speak Clearly, the Future is Hopeful.
To make the shapeshifting robot work in the real world, some adjustments need to be made. For instance, since human body temperature is higher than the melting point of pure gallium, a robot meant for medical applications could use an alloy matrix composed of gallium that increases its melting point while still retaining performance.
Carmel Majidi emphasizes the need for further exploration into how these robots could be used in a biomedical setting, stating that “What we’re showing are just one-off demonstrations, proofs of concept – yet much more research must be conducted to discover how this technology can specifically benefit drug delivery or foreign object removal.”