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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Susie Beever & Stephen Beech

Terminator-style robot inspired by sea cucumbers can liquify and REFORM itself

Engineers have built a Terminator-style robot which can liquify itself and revert to a solid thanks to sea cucumbers.

Footage shows the humanoid device melting to escape from a cage, before reforming itself.

The incredible transformation was inspired by the marine animals' ability to shapeshift between liquid and solid.

But that's not all the robot can do, with the engineering team having made them magnetic and able to conduct electricity.

The team of robotics experts from across the world joined forces and expertise to build the robots, putting them through an obstacle course to test its impressive abilities.

They used the humble sea cucumber as their inspiration to design miniature robots that rapidly and reversibly shift between liquid and solid states.

Although tests are still in early stages, the incredible invention could be used in the future by doctors to help move medicines around the body.

The robot's shapeshifting abilities were inspired by the humble sea cucumber (Getty Images)

Team leader Doctor Chengfeng Pan explained that where traditional robots are hard-bodied and stiff, "soft" robots have the opposite problem and are flexible but weak, with their movements difficult to control.

Dr Pan, an engineer at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: "Giving robots the ability to switch between liquid and solid states endows them with more functionality."

The team created the new phase-shifting material - dubbed a "magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional machine" - by embedding magnetic particles in gallium, a metal with a very low melting point of 29.8C.

The magnetic particles allow the robot to heat up and liquify as it moves through electromagnetic fields as well as helping it to move.

Senior author Professor Carmel Majidi, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, in Canada, said the new material also liquifies into an "extremely fluid" material making it much more flexible than other similar materials.

The team used a magnetic field to test the robot, making it jump over moats, climb walls, and even split in half to move other objects around before coalescing back together.

In one video, a robot shaped like a person liquifies to ooze through a grid after which it is extracted and re-moulded back into its original shape.

Sea cucumbers are able to shapeshift (Getty Images)

Dr Pan said: "Now, we're pushing this material system in more practical ways to solve some very specific medical and engineering problems."

The team also used the robots to remove a foreign object from a model stomach and to deliver drugs on-demand into the same stomach.

They also demonstrated how the material could work as smart soldering robots for wireless circuit assembly and repair and as a universal mechanical "screw" for assembling parts in hard-to-reach spaces.

Prof Majidi added: "Future work should further explore how these robots could be used within a biomedical context.

"What we're showing are just one-off demonstrations, proofs of concept, but much more study will be required to delve into how this could actually be used for drug delivery or for removing foreign objects."

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