With the development of modern technology, we come across so many new innovations every day. A team of researchers from the Bingham University has developed the world’s first liquid metal lattice.
This design is sure to pave the path for devices that completely heal automatically when damaged. The researchers have built a few structures such as soccer balls, honeycombs, and hands using this liquid metal.
The process starts with Field’s alloy, a type of metal made from bismuth, indium, and tin that can melt at a moderately low temperature of 62 degrees Celsius. It is low enough to melt in hot water. As soon as the alloy cools down, it solidifies, transforming into a tough metal. The team uses 3D-printing to print lattice or skeleton structures from Field’s alloy.
Afterward, the lattice is filled with a layer of rubber. The structure stays still and intact as long as the temperature stays below 62 degrees. But if the temperature rises above that, then the Field’s alloy melts. Fortunately, the rubber layer keeps everything intact. The alloy hardens again when it has cooled down. The rubber layer helps the alloy to return to its original form.
This won’t work without the shell because then the liquid metal will flow away. The researchers spent more than half a year developing this manufacturing process. The shell skeleton controls the shape and integrity. This allows the liquid metal to confine to its channels.
Apparently, it has many uses because you can crash into other metals but heat it later and recover its shape.
This liquid metal can be used over and over again. It can be used when constructing spacecraft because of its properties. Isn’t this liquid metal just amazing?
Since his Ph.D. work at the University of Pittsburgh, Zhang has studied lattice materials; he sees many possibilities for NASA or private space-faring companies in this new liquid metal research.
This new liquid metal could provide new possibilities for NASA and private companies. This means future structures could take up less room in an exploration vessel and expand when the astronauts reach their destination. However, Zhang’s ultimate goal in mind is to develop a liquid metal lattice robot.
Pu Zhang’s background.
He received his BS (2008) in Engineering Mechanics and MS (2011) in Solid Mechanics at Hunan University in China. He was awarded a Ph.D. degree (2015) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, where he researched biomimetic materials, lattice materials, and additive manufacturing. After obtaining his Ph.D., he was appointed as a postdoctoral research associate (2016-2017) at the University of Manchester to research tunable metamaterials. He later joined the Mechanical Engineering Department at Binghamton University in Jan. 2018, where he directs the Mechanics & Architectured Materials Group. His current study interest falls into the area of material modeling and design for additive manufacturing.
All images are used with permission. For more info: Zhang/Binghamton University