VIDEO: Metallic Terminators could take shape into future

REMEMBER the metallic shape-shifting Terminator from the early '90s? It'd be surprising if you don't remember as that morphing robot scared the pants of most children, and adults alike, when the classic film came out.

Actor Robert Patrick played the robot assassin made from the fictional metal "memetic polyalloy," which allowed him to take on many forms and rapidly repair itself from otherwise fatal damage.

Mimetic polyalloy exists only within this movie script, but scientists at Melbourne's RMIT University have announced a "critical step" towards extremely malleable electronics, opening the door for futuristic liquid death robots.

Researchers say the experiments has yielded some promising results. By exposing droplets of gallium to a water tank and changing the pH levels, scientists found that highly conductive metal moved by itself and even changed shape.

"Putting droplets in another liquid with an ionic content can be used for breaking symmetry across them and allow them to move about freely in three dimensions, but so far we have not understood the fundamentals of how liquid metals interacts with surrounding fluid," said Melbourne researcher, professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh.

"Simply tweaking the water's chemistry made the liquid metal droplets move and change shape, without any need for external mechanical, electronic or optical stimulants.

"Using this discovery, we were able to create moving objects, switches and pumps that could operate autonomously - self-propelling liquid metals driving by the composition of the surrounding fluid," he explained.

Kalantar-zadeh hopes that one day breakthroughs will enable liquid metals to be used to build 3D electronics and perhaps even a less murderous version of the T-1000.  

"Eventually, using the fundamentals of this discovery, it may be possible to build a 3D liquid metal humanoid on demand - like the T-1000 Terminator but with better programming."

The full study on soft cell electronics is published in this month's Nature Communications journal.

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