Select Page

Weird metal stories – Bizarre robots, shape shifters, asteroids

Metals are some of the commonest substances on earth. They can also be some of the oddest, capable of extraordinary feats of weirdness when manipulated by scientists. As steel suppliers, UK  brass suppliers, and experts in handy stuff like 6082 plate and aluminium extrusion, we often come across strangely inspiring stories about metals. Here are just some of them. 


Weird metal stories – Bizarre robots, shape shifters, asteroids

by | Jan 10, 2022 | Environmental, Green, Industry News, Innovation, Metal Definitions, Metal News, Metal Uses

Metals are some of the commonest substances on earth. They can also be some of the oddest, capable of extraordinary feats of weirdness when manipulated by scientists. As steel suppliers, UK  brass suppliers, and experts in handy stuff like 6082 tooling plate and aluminium extrusion, we often come across strangely inspiring stories about metals. Here are just some of them.

Gentle yet strong robotic hand

It’s extremely dexterous. It comes with hyper-sensitive fingertip touch sensors. And it looks like something from a sci-fi movie. Welcome to the human-like robotic hand with a touch delicate enough to pick up eggs and tiny, weeny  computer chips, yet strong enough to crush a fizzy drink can like it’s made from paper.

The idea is to use the hand for prosthetics and robots driven by AI. The hand is made from a blend of steel and aluminium and the fingers are driven by little motors in the palm. These move metal ‘tendons’ with 20 joints to give a surprisingly natural series of movements. The fingers can move sideways, flex back and forth, and fold, and the end result is uncannily like the real thing.

We are stardust – but we are also metal

At this stage in the game you may feel your body is mainly made up of Christmas cake, wine, mince pies and chocolate. In fact you’re made of 20 or so elements, most of which were made billions of years ago inside ancient stars and some of which are metals.

Take one 80kg human, deconstruct it into its constituent atoms, and this is what you get:

  • 52g oxygen
  • 14.4kg carbon
  • 8kg hydrogen
  • 2.4g nitrogen
  • 1.2kg Calcium
  • 880g phosphorus
  • 200g sulphur
  • 200g potassium
  • 120g sodium
  • 120g chlorine
  • 40g magnesium
  • 4.8g iron
  • 3g fluorine
  • 2.6g zinc
  • 0.37g strontium
  • 0.0128g iodine
  • 0.08g copper
  • 0.0136g manganese
  • 0.0104g molybdenum

Hello gallium!

Make a small droplet of the metal gallium, then force it to propel a wheeled robot forward using a simple electric current. It sounds straightforward enough but in fact this seemingly basic idea could help large robots handle difficult terrain by trundling along like tumbleweed.

It’s all down to a team at the University of Wollongong, down under. They made a 5cm diameter plastic wheel shaped like a car tyre. Then they added a drop of liquid metal made mostly from gallium, plus a pair of electrodes on a sliding platform. Turn on the electrodes, powered by a tiny battery or external source, and the resulting voltage pushes the drop of metal towards an electrode as the tyre turns. The drop continually changes the robot’s centre of gravity and keeps it rolling onwards.

Meet the curious liquid metal alloy that’s less dense than water

Scientists have created a liquid metal alloy less dense than water, and it could be just the thing for making super-light exoskeleton robots.

Liquid metal alloys don’t go solid at room temperature. They also melt at a lower temperature than the melting points of the metals they’re made from. The team at China’s Tsinghua University mixed pure gallium and indium to make a liquid metal alloy that melts at 15.7°C. Then they added thousands of miniature glass beads filled with air. The oxygen that mixes with the liquid metal helps keep the glass beads suspended, and the resulting liquid is so incredibly light it actually floats on water.

NASA plans a visit to mysterious Psyche in 2022

NASA is planning to send a craft to a curious metal asteroid called Psyche in August 2022. The target lies in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and appears to be mostly made from nickel and iron, which is ‘highly unusual’ since most are made from rock. The voyage should confirm whether Psyche is what the experts suspect – an ancient core of what could have once been a forming planet.

Come to us for metal supplies in 2022

May we wish you a happy and productive new year! Can we help you with expert metal services? Maybe you’re looking for local sheet aluminium suppliers, want to talk 2024 aluminium plate with a pro, or are keen to grab supplies of aluminium tooling plate 5083? We can help.

Please complete the enquiry form located on this page, call +44 (0) 330 223 2653 or email us to discover how Metalex could be supplying you with premium metal products and professional metal processing services.


Record 21-year inventory low, aluminium goes green, and more.

As a highly experienced aluminium stockist, we’re watching with great interest as the market, metal stocks and more fluctuate. In a week when the London Metal Exchange announced aluminium inventories are declining fast, with the latest inventory at just 453,875 mt,...

Azovstal plant news, worldwide aluminium woes, Japan brings steel home

Mariupol looks like it might soon be in Russian hands. Ukrainian fighters are making moves to abandon the massive steel plant where hundreds of them have held out despite relentless bombardment by Russia. Ukrainian officials say the soldiers, who’ve been sheltering...

Tata harnesses sewage bacteria to help the environment, Azovstal Steel Plant latest, recycling records beaten

Defending the Azovstal steel works in the besieged city of Mariupol has become ‘priority number one’ for Ukraine. The plant is the last place Ukrainian resistance is holding out in the city. The area has become the heart of the war and efforts continue to defend it,...

Metal supply woes – covid, supply chains, protests, war and more.

Need 6061 aluminium UK? In the market for 6082 aluminium round bar? The world of metal supply is looking particularly turbulent at the moment thanks to Russia’s war on Ukraine, the need to deal with climate change, the global cost of living crisis, ongoing worldwide...

About mining metals under the ocean

As a trusted metals supplier we know exactly how important the products we sell to the world we all live in. The built environment, transport across the planet itself and beyond, communications, the goods we buy on an everyday basis, metals are crucial in so many...

Space metals – Which metals are tough enough for lift off?

The forces you get when a space rocket takes off are quite something, especially during the phase of ‘maximum aerodynamic pressure’ when the rocket’s actually thrusting through the earth’s atmosphere. Despite these powerful forces the craft’s liquid fuel systems have...

Aluminium plate supplier special – 2022 aluminium supply and prices

At Metalex we sell an awful lot of aluminium. This time we’re delving into the aluminium sector. At one end China’s covid outbreaks are affecting supplies and pricing. At the other end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to supply worries and prices are already on...

Marvellous Metals

6061 aluminium plate, 7075 aluminium round bar, brass round bar cz121, aluminium extrusion, it’s all familiar stuff. But look deeper and science has discovered some very odd metals indeed, with very strange properties. Let’s explore the ins and outs of Gallium. ...

Massive Metal Mining Machines – The Big Stuff

In our sector, more or less everything is BIG. The machinery, the technology, the processes and the mines themselves are all absolutely massive, whether open cast or underground. This time around we are exploring the mighty world of massive metal mining machines.  ...

US tariff troubles, Scottish steel nightmares Car bonnet sculptures

The festive season is over, the mornings and evenings are lighter, and spring is in the air. We’re stocked with all manner of essential metal supplies, from everyday products like quality 6061 plate to brass square bar en12165 and carbon steel. Suppliers like us keep...

Accreditations & Associations

Aluminium Stockholders Association

Quick Enquiry

Leave this field blank
  • South East
  • South West
  • London
  • South Wales
  • North Wales
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands
  • North East
  • North West
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Nothing found

0330 223 2653