When one thinks of a robot, they often think of something that has human-like features, but that isn’t always the case.
Robots can, and have, taken on different forms, including those similar to other mammals, as well as fish, birds and insects.
But scientists in Hong Kong have now created a robot which takes the form of a blob that can behave both as a solid and a liquid.
The blob makes use of magnetic particles within its system to help it shift into different shapes and navigate through all sorts of tight and narrow spaces.
Already picking up traction on the internet as a ‘magnetic slime robot’ after its creators at the the Chinese University of Hong Kong announced it at the end of March this year, some have likened it to the gooey form taken by Marvel character Venom.
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Others, taking a more comical approach, have compared it to Flubber, the 1997 sci-fi comedy film starring the late Robin Williams.
However, some who have not been so kind in their comparisons, have called it a ‘magnetic turd’ based on its colour, texture and default appearance.
The magnetic slime has already shown itself to have the ability to perform a range of impressive tasks in demonstration videos.
It can expand and contract, twist and turn, and even form the shape of an O when other magnets are applied to it externally.
The robot’s co-creator Prof Li Zhang said: “The ultimate goal is to deploy it like a robot.”
The scientist added that the robot is still in its fundamental research phase and that they are still trying to “understand its material properties,” which Prof Zhang described as being “visco-elastic”, much like “mixing water with [corn] starch at home”.
Prof Zhang added: “When you touch it very quickly it behaves like a solid. When you touch it gently and slowly it behaves like a liquid.”
Although the scientists have no plans to test the slime in a medical setting in the foreseeable future as the slime itself contains particles that can be toxic, it could one day possibly be used to remove harmful objects from inside the human body, such as swallowed batteries.
The slime is largely made out of a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol, borax and neodymium magnet particles, as well as a hypothetically protective coating made out of silica.
Prof Zhang said: “To avoid toxic electrolytes leak[ing] out, we can maybe use this kind of slime robot to do an encapsulation, to form some kind of inert coating.
“The safety [would] also strongly depend on how long you would keep them inside of your body.”
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