In the movie “Terminator 2,” the shape-shifting T-1000 robot morphs into a liquid state to squeeze through tight spaces or to repair itself when harmed.
Now a phase-changing material built from wax and foam, and capable of switching between hard and soft states, could allow robots to perform the same feat.
The material could be used to build deformable surgical robots. Robots built from the material could also be used in search-and-rescue operations to squeeze through rubble looking for survivors.
The wax coating can change from a hard outer shell to a soft, pliable surface with moderate heating.
This could be done by running a wire along each of the coated foam struts and then applying a current to heat up and melt the surrounding wax. Turning off the current again would allow the material to cool down and return to its rigid state.
They’re also looking into other, even stranger materials – basically anything that can change state from liquid to solid and back again.
As described by Anette Hosoi in the journal Macromolecular Materials and Engineering via MIT News.