Scientists develop ‘intelligent’ liquid with programmable response

It’s the T-1000: Researchers have created a synthetic fluid capable of changing its properties according to the pressure exerted on it. — AFP Relaxnews

Harvard researchers have developed an “intelligent” liquid whose properties vary according to the pressure exerted on it. This discovery could revolutionise many technological sectors, starting with robotics.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in the US have succeeded in developing a programmable metafluid whose elasticity and ability to change state are fully adjustable.

The metafluid consists of small elastomer spheres, measuring between 50 and 500 microns in diameter, which are filled with air and suspended in silicon oil. When pressure is applied, they deform and modify the characteristics of the fluid.

“Unlike solid metamaterials, metafluids have the unique ability to flow and adapt to the shape of their container,” explains Katia Bertoldi, a professor of applied mechanics and senior author of the paper, quoted on the SEAS website. The team succeeded in producing hundreds of thousands of these small, highly deformable spherical capsules in the laboratory.

By adjusting the pressure, the researchers were able to change the properties of the fluid, in particular its viscosity. When the pressure inside the liquid increases, the capsules collapse, forming a half-sphere. And when the pressure is removed, the capsules return to their spherical shape.

These properties can then be adjusted by modifying the number, thickness or size of the capsules in the liquid. The liquid can then be "programmed" to react to certain actions.

This new class of fluids offers tremendous prospects, particularly in the field of robotics. Researchers are studying its impact on the optimisation of robotic hydraulic systems. This research could also be useful in the creation of flexible robots, capable of squeezing through tight spaces or adapting to complex environments.

This research is published in the journal Nature. – AFP Relaxnews

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