Melting Terminator T-1000 bots can unclog your digestive system and break out of mini jail cells

The MPTM bot shifting from solid to liquid and back again.
(Image credit: Matter)

This tiny Terminator-esque "phase shifting bot" can move between solid and liquid states in order to access, or escape confined spaces. In solid form, it can take on simple shapes including that of the little Lego man as shown in the video, but the magic really happens when it melts down—moving between the two states it is able to complete a multiformity of tasks, all completely wirelessly. 

Researchers have been able to show the endless potential of this material, which they've dubbed "magnetoactive phase transitional matter", or MPTM (Matter via BBC Science Focus).

In order to shift its form, the bot features magnetic particles embedded in gallium to which an alternating magnetic field (AMF) is applied. This heats it up and causes it to melt. With a melting point of just 29.8°C gallium is the perfect solution for a phase shifting bot that uses the simple application of ambient heat to deform and reform. 

The use of gallium means it's also conductive, so along with countless other applications, MPTMs can be used as "smart soldering machines that can manipulate and solder electronic components to create a functional circuit".

Aside from that, the researchers show this material can be used to form "universal screws to assemble parts in hard-to-reach space". I'm not sure exactly how universal these screws will be once they're exposed to only 30°C temps. But while the low melting point of gallium somewhat limits its application, this is still an incredible feat on the part of the researchers.

Impressively, the design even has applications in drug delivery, and removing foreign objects from the human body. God, I hope I don't have to cover the first time that happens.

"The diverse unprecedented functionalities demonstrated by MPTMs are promising for future applications in flexible electronics, healthcare, and robotics that depend on dynamic shape reconfigurability and repair."

Time to prepare yourself for a future involving morphological robots, then. At least we know their weakness: turning the heating on.

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Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.