Design Engineering

Morphing liquid metal into physical shapes opens opportunities in soft robotics



Scientists have applied electrical charges created by a computer to manipulate liquid metal into letters and even a heart.

Researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University are boast their new technique to form liquid metal into 2D shapes.

The scientists have applied electrical charges to manipulate liquid metal into letters and even a heart, opening up new opportunities in the field of soft robotics and shape-changing displays.

In order to shape the liquid, the team use an electric field created by a computer, which allows for the position and shape of the liquid metal to be programmed and controlled dynamically.

liquid metal sussex

A blob of liquid metal morphs into the letter S using programmable electrical charges. Photo credit: INTERACT Lab/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,” explains Yutaka Tokuda, the Research Associate working on this project at the University of Sussex.


The team says the findings suggest that these materials that can be programmed to seamlessly change shape.

“While this work is in its early stages,” adds Tokuda, “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.”

Professor Sriram Subramanian, head of the INTERACT Lab at the University of Sussex,  believes that these liquid metals are a promising class of materials for deformable applications.

Some of the  unique properties include voltage-controlled surface tension, high liquid-state conductivity and liquid-solid phase transition at room temperature.

“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,” adds Subramanian.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories