Metal That Morphs

A hybrid material that combines a stiff metal called Field’s metal and a soft, porous silicone foam has been created by Cornell University engineering professor Rob Shepherd and colleagues.

(Morphing metal movie video)

The material combines the best properties of both — stiffness when it’s called for, and elasticity when a change of shape is required. The material also has the ability to self-heal following damage.

“Sometimes you want a robot, or any machine, to be stiff,” said Shepherd. “But when you make them stiff, they can’t morph their shape very well. To give a soft robot both capabilities, to be able to morph their structure but also to be stiff and bear load, that’s what this material does.”

In addition to its low melting point of 144 degrees Fahrenheit, Field’s metal was chosen because, unlike similar alloys, it contains no lead, making it biocompatible.

Fans of science fiction films of course recall those liquid metal T-1000 terminators from the 1991 movie Terminator 2:

John Connor: So this other guy: he's a Terminator like you, right?
The Terminator: Not like me. A T-1000, advanced prototype.
John Connor: You mean more advanced than you are?
The Terminator: Yes. A mimetic poly-alloy.
John Connor: What the hell does that mean?
The Terminator: Liquid metal.

Philip K. Dick fans may be thinking (as do our friends at Frolix_8) of the machine (the "M") from his 1957 short story The Unreconstructed M. This enigmatic machine can transform itself at will into apparently innocent objects - but it's only waiting to strike.

Beam, holding the cigaret lighter, walked toward the M. A receptor stalk waved toward him and the machine retreated. Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed. For an interval, the device struggled with itself; then, reluctantly, the portable t-v unit again became visible.

Via KurzweilAI. Also, I'm sure you want to see more T-1000 Terminator moments from Terminator 2.

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