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 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
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.
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