Jun 092011
 
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We may not yet have the liquid metal depicted in the Terminator movies, but scientists have now developed something that’s vaguely along the same lines.

German materials scientist Dr. Jörg Weißmüller and Chinese research scientist Hai-Jun Jin have created a metallic material that can change back and forth between being strong but brittle and soft but malleable, via electrical signals.

The metals used in the material are typically precious ones, such as gold or platinum. They are placed in an acidic solution, which causes minute pores to form within them – in other words, they start corroding. Those pores are then impregnated with a conductive liquid, such as saline solution or diluted acid.

By varying an electrical current that is applied to the liquid, electrons are added to or withdrawn from the surface atoms of the metal. This can increase the strength of the material as a whole by up to 200 percent, or it can cause it to become softer, but also better able to absorb energy without shattering.

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