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Mechanical Manufacturing: Subversion of Liquid Metal Forms

Google is making large inroads into various intelligent hardware products such as robots and drones; Softbank, Ali and Foxconn have recently joint ventured and launched the Pepper Robotics Production Project. The strategic layout of these international giants has made people realize that a new manufacturing and new hardware era is quietly coming. For the future, our thinking is whether China is ready to enter the “new hardware era”? Where is the next demand flash point for high-end equipment and smart hardware in China? The "future machine" series of reports hopes to use forward-looking research perspectives to provide you with inspiration for these issues. In the ninth chapter, we focused on liquid metals.

The liquid metal is formed by the frozen state of the metal melt atoms being frozen. The liquid metal is an amorphous alloy and is synthesized using modern rapid solidification metallurgy technology. It is a novel amorphous metal glass material with excellent mechanical, physical and chemical properties of general metals and glass. Physical properties are isotropic, there is no exact melting point, has a glass transition temperature point, both solid, metal, glass characteristics, also known as metallic glass.

The liquid metal has a completely different structure from that of ordinary metal atoms, and therefore it also determines its superior properties that many crystalline metals cannot match: 1) High strength: If you need to support a car weighing about 1.5 tons, if you use ordinary Steel needs 7 to 10 steel rods with a diameter of 2mm, and only one is required for the use of liquid metal materials. 2) Glass transition: The superior self-healing ability of the liquid metal robot T-1000 comes from the glass transition characteristics of liquid metal. The process of heating and conversion of liquid metal is characterized by a semi-flowing glass state. The conversion temperature is about 0.5 to 0.6 times the melting temperature, which is exactly the origin of the name “liquid”. 3) In addition, it also has excellent soft magnetic properties, corrosion resistance, high elasticity, high hardness, abrasion resistance, and the like.

Liquid metal is currently the most active research area for metal materials, with a wide range of downstream applications. At present, it is mainly applied in the following aspects: 1) Liquid metal steel: The strength is 2 to 3 times that of conventional high-strength steel, which can be used for the surface protection of naval vessels, and the anti-strike ability also has advantages that cannot be matched by traditional steel. Magnetic features also have anti-probing features. 2) Lightweight materials: The characteristics of aluminum-based and magnesium-based liquid metal high-strength and low-density materials are in line with the development needs of light-duty vehicles such as automobiles and high-speed rail vehicles, and have already been applied in the aerospace field. 3) Liquid metal tools: The currently launched "Light Sword Knife" is one of the prominent representatives. After the user holds the handle, he selects the knife body to be generated on the screen, and then a liquid metal knife can be formed on the knife handle, which can be automatically formed and the size of the knife body can be selected. 4) Sporting Goods: Golf heads, skis, baseball bats, skating equipment made of liquid metal have been gradually commercialized in the United States and Japan, and can deliver 99% of energy. 5) Biomedical materials: Liquid metal osmium alloys do not react easily with body fluids and surrounding organ tissue and can be used to connect and repair damaged nerves. Can also be used for scalpels, artificial bones, electromagnetic stimulation in vivo biosensing materials, artificial teeth and so on.

In March of this year, Chinese scientists discovered that self-driven bionic liquid metal mollusks: liquid metals can move in the form of deformable machines for a long period of time after swallowing small amounts of substances, enabling autonomous movements that do not require external power.

The highest form robot of liquid metal becomes reality. The liquid metal is treated as a "cell" function execution unit. It adopts space-based electrode control and integrates knowledge of liquid metal materials, biology, robotics, fluid mechanics, electronics, sensors, and computers, and extends the intelligent liquid metal unit to three-dimensional. With the use of electronic programming as a neural control, it is possible to assemble freely deformable liquid robots.

The autonomous movement of deformable liquid metal technology is still in the early stage of research and development of basic principles, and there is still a considerable distance from industrialization. At present, the research and exploration of domestic scientists has taken the lead in the world.