Shape-shifting robot escapes jail in mind-bending experiment

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A shape-shifting robot escaping jail
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A shape-shifting robot in the vein of The Terminator’s T-1000 has escaped jail by walking through cell bars. Able to shift between liquid and solid forms, the robot was able to slide right through its miniature jail cell.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Carnegie Mellon University developed a machine that can switch between the two forms. Dubbed MPTM (Magnetoactive Phase Transitional Matter) robots, these devices can move between the two states at will.


Published in the scientific journal Matter, the robots are able to move between the two states via exposure to alternating magnetic fields. The miniature robot can stay solid at standard room temperature, but will melt into a liquid form when hit by a magnetic field.

The shape-shifting robot is only possible due to its elemental makeup. Its body is constructed from Gallium, a soft metal with a low melting point. The gallium is also filled with magnetic particles that allow the metal to be manipulated by magnetic fields.

In a video released online, the shape-shifting robot was shown using its unique properties to escape from jail. The video shows the miniature robot melting into a puddle of gallium and falling straight through the jail cell bars. Afterwards, the robot can be cooled and reformed into its shape.


Other tests show the robot performing acrobatics, such as climbing walls or jumping over moats. In one video, the shape-shifting robot splits itself into two halves before reforming into its original shape.

Unfortunately, the robot cannot perfectly reform itself every time. After the jail break video, scientists had to recast the robot to complete its shape. However, the proof-of-concept still shows a very unique future for robotics, even if their uses have yet to be clearly defined.

The scientists behind the unique shape-shifting robots will continue to explore the technology they’ve created. In the future, the robots could be larger and better at reforming themselves.