back to article New 'liquid smart metal' can go hard or floppy

Top boffins in Germany and China say they have developed a remarkable new type of material which can switch from being strong and hard to soft and squashy at the touch of a button. Jörg Weißmüller, materials scientist at both the Technical University of Hamburg and the Helmholtz Geesthacht Zentrum für Material- und …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    I for one, welcome our liquid metal overlords....

    Say no more.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Arnie will sort them out

      Just need a swimming pool of molten metal and some cheezy acting.

    2. Mediocrates

      The real T-1000

      The T-1000 was a Chevrolet Chevette with Pontiac badges.

  2. Bunker_Monkey
    Thumb Up

    Anyone think the same thing as me on this headline??

    My first thoughts were 'T-1000' lol

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Read that headline and subhead again.

      Possibly it was the "Insert mimetic polyalloy reference here" bit that prompted your thoughts in that particular direction?

    2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      My first thoughts were 'T-1000'

      T-1000? Wow... My first thoughts were Kristanna Loken.... Ah well, different strokes for different folks.

  3. Svantevid


    My first thought was "No more Viagra spam."

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      "No more Viagra spam"

      You have plans to dip your wang in acid and fill the holes with saline solution, then?

      1. Svantevid


        I thought about inserting a rod of that material next to urethra.

        By the time I'll need it, they'll perfect the technique of insertion, solve the problem of short-circuiting the user and his companion, mass production will cheapen the procedure and materials...

  4. Anonymous Coward


    I was thinking more of a friction free clutch for my car.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thinking? - don't try this at home.

      A Friction free clutch? How the fuck is that gonna work?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      That is already possible

      That is already possible without crazy boffinry - magnetic clutches, liquid clutch systems (Haldex), etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        true but...

        By "Friction free" - i think he is alluding to "lossless" - hence my original sarcastic comment.

        Almost every automatic car has a "torque converter" which converts engine torque into heat, which i would class as liquid friction, it gets hot right? Magnetic drag plates operate similarly, with eddy current heating in the slip plate taking up the slack between engine energy and propulsion output. Fundamentally, when the car is at rest and the engine power is applied, there is energy input but no energy output (for the first fraction of a second) - hence loss hence friction. As the car speeds up the losses drop to zero.

        So, fundamentally, due to the fact that a clutch needs to be used on a hill-start, to hold the car stationary for a moment, there will always need to be some power dissipated, hence the concept of a frictionless (i.e. lossless) clutch is a null concept.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Byfriction free i ment....

          that instead of having a plate that rubs against the fly wheel, replace the whole unit with a liquid that when a switch is flicked it becomes solid thus binding engine to gear box... as there are no rubbing together of parts this is friction free....

          I did indeed see such a device demonstrated on TV many years ago but it was a plastic and in its solid form was more of a thick soup and did not become solid enough to have any practical applications.

          so a friction free clutch is one that would not wear out due to the erosion of the friction pads !!

          the problem with some people is they think to much !

    3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Friction-free clutch

      I had one of them when the gearbox broke, leaking oil all over the clutch plate. I cannot recommend it. It starts off really jerky, and then you loose all drive.

      (A bit like getting up in the morning and going to work when you know the BofH will be there)

  5. M Gale

    Funny, I was thinking...

    ...more "lifelike", errr, toys. You know, they start all soft and malleable..

    Okay, I'll get my coat.

  6. Simon Barnes

    no expense spared...

    "in experiments so far, gold or platinum"

    so in fact we're talking smart jewellery ??

  7. as2003

    Big deal!

    I inadvertently discovered a smart metal when I was a child. I put a hard metal poker into a coal fire, left it there for a while, then when I retrieved it, it has become quite malleable!

    For some reason my "smart metal" never made any headlines, and I forgot to patent it.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Agree - not exactly new

      "switch from being strong and hard to soft and squashy at the touch of a button."

      That'll be your mum just about to open the bedroom door . . .

      wanted - yet another icon , the "And it's not even Friday yet" - maybe a pool of pavement pizza?

  8. Luke McCarthy


    Now we can have floppy disks that double as hard disks!

  9. Stephen Hunt
    Thumb Up


    If they built an extruder for this for a 3D printer, then we'd be talking.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      3D metal printing

      Been done. You have a tank of metal powder and blow a jet of it out over a laser. You move the nozzle / laser head around to make the part.

      Seen an engine block with a crack in it repaired using the technology to show it off (I think it was at Photonics expo by one of the Manchester Unis about 14 years ago)

  10. SpecialGray

    Where's my gold and platinum?

    Well boss.. we corroded it with acid you see.. for science.. so you can't have it back. All gone now. Ahem. We're off to the pub.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Can have it back

      Gold dissolves in a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid to form chloroauric acid. If you heat chloroauric acid, it gives off hydrogen chloride and leaves behind auric chloride. React auric chloride with trisodium citrate to get back to metallic gold.

      If you want do destroy gold properly, send it to LHC or RHIC.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Wasn't this...

        ... the method used by Niels Bohr to stop his colleagues' Nobel Prize medals being looted by the Nazis?

        Apparently, the solution stayed in a flask, undetected, in a lab for the duration of the war, and afterwards the process was reversed, and the recovered gold sent to Stockholm to be struck into replacement medals.

      2. Cliff

        If you want do destroy gold properly...

        "If you want do destroy gold properly, send it to LHC or RHIC."

        Or Cash4Gold-alike companies. At least they'll pay you like most of it was not present.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Funny german

    Lewis, is it me or you just love writing Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung? I bet you try to say it during your break times :-)

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Ze Germans

      Incidentally, it seems to me from El Reg articles over the past few years that Ze Germans are the only nation in Europe that is churning out some serious kick-ass science with real-world applications. No wonder their economy is doing so well compared to <ahem> countries cutting their Science and R&D budgets </ahem>

  12. Cheese

    Electrorheological fluid

    That's what you need for your clutch! I'm pretty sure Tomorrow's World were of the opinion that we'd all be using such 'smart fluids' by now.

  13. nyelvmark

    But seriously,

    I've been trying think of applications.

    If the change from rigid to soft also reduces the tensile strength sufficiently that a bar of the material will break, under a stress which it can support in the rigid state, then it's a potential replacement for explosive bolts, for example.

    It would also have been an, albeit expensive, candidate for the release mechanism developed for the PARIS project:

    The rather elegant low-tech system finally (and successfully) used:

    Another thing that occurs to me is collision-mitigation systems, such as crumple zones and (non-Bulgarian) airbags. Now if your engine could instantly change from being a massive lump of solid metal into something as soft as a cuddly toy...

  14. El Cid Campeador

    Somebody's gonna hack it

    You can't kill me because I've got magic aaaarrgh!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    So when is someone going to make sex toys out of this stuff?

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Raw material sounds a bit expensive.

    Your choice is Gold (quite expensive) or Platinum (*very* expensive).

    Nott exactly something you'll find sloshing round the spare parts bin.

  17. Rick Brasche
    Thumb Up

    could they do this with other materials as well?

    can this be made to work with less conductive materials too? If so, we could conceivably have Neal Stephenson's "armorgel" from Snow Crash.

    better armor for joints that doesn't impede comfort or flexibility, especially if it can work as well for big joints like neck or back, as well as smaller ones like fingers and wrists, are always welcome by the long distance and daily-commute motorcycle community.

  18. Mondo the Magnificent

    The future is soft, squishy shiny and hard....

    You're overlooking the "obvious" application for this new material...

    The Terminator T1000! Yes, the next step towards our ROTM armageddon!!!

  19. drewsup
    Black Helicopters

    I can think of a use..

    The flying wing Batman had in the last movie, it was a cape until an electric charge ran through it, then it stiffened out to glider wings.

  20. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Austin Powers villainous enemy comes to life.

    "A smoke and a pancake? Flapjack and a cigarette? Cigar and a waffle?"

  21. Ray 8

    commercial uses

    does this have commercial implications or just the fantasies of hollywood

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Inductive mimetic polyalloy

    Didn't I read a while back about "magnetic solder" being the next wonder material?

    Seems to be easy to make, just mix finely powdered Sn, Ag and Cu (aka SnAgCu with 300 mesh iron particles and then fuse together under inert gas to form the solder.

    This then melts nicely using an induction field and can be moved around using a magnet.

    Its not much of a stretch to slightly modify this formula by replacing the silver with gallium and indium i.e galinstan, then you too can have your very own "Mimetic Polyalloy" hand rising out of a pool of metal to scare the bejesus out of honest Machine Uprising-fearing folks :-)

    (btw, gallium tends to wet glass annoyingly, the fix is to use gallium oxide on the surface.)

    AC, because someone will probably figure out how to turn this into a pocket stabbing weapon/lock pick/etc...

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