Scientists from the University of Sussex and Swansea University have created a shape shifting liquid metal that can be programmed. They have discovered a way to apply electrical charges to the material and coax it into 3D shapes like letters. This “extremely promising” new kind of material can be programmed to alter its physical form.
Source: University of Sussex
According to Yutaka Tokuda, the research associate who is working on this project at the University of Sussex, “This is a new class of programmable materials in a liquid state which can dynamically transform from a simple droplet shape to many other complex geometry in a controllable manner. While this work is in its early stages, the compelling evidence of detailed 2D control of liquid metals excites us to explore more potential applications in computer graphics, smart electronics, soft robotics and flexible displays.”
The researchers used electric fields to shape the liquid. These areas are created by a computer which means that both the position and form of this liquid metal material can be manipulated. According to Professor Sriram Subramanian, head of the INTERACT Lab at the University of Sussex: “Liquid metals are an extremely promising class of materials for deformable applications; their unique properties include voltage-controlled surface tension, high liquid-state conductivity and liquid-solid phase transition at room temperature.
Source: YouTube, University of Sussex
One of the long-term visions of us and many other researchers is to change the physical shape, appearance, and functionality of any object through digital control to create intelligent, dexterous and useful objects that exceed the functionality of any current display or robot.”
This study was presented last October 17 at the ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces 2017 conference in Brighton. This is a joint project between Sussex and Swansea funded by EPSRC on “Breaking the Glass: Multimodal, Malleable Interactive Mobile surfaces for Hands-In Interactions”.
This study can lead to many possible applications in the near future. This includes soft robotics as well as flexible computer displays.