Boffins have devised TERMINATOR style LIQUID METAL – for an antenna

Calling John Connor. John Connor to the checkout, please


Boffins have made a liquid metal device which can alter its shape through voltage alone, removing the need for clunky external pumps previously used to arrange such material.

In a breakthrough which brings humanity much too close to the development of functioning T-1000s, boffins from North Carolina State University (NCSU) have demonstrated a reconfigurable liquid-metal prototype in the Journal of Applied Physics.

The paper, titled A reconfigurable liquid metal antenna driven by electrochemically controlled capillarity describes "a new electrochemical method for reversible, pump-free control of liquid eutectic gallium and indium (EGaIn) in a capillary."

Antennas are interesting as the shape and length of the conducting paths which form them determine their operating frequencies and radiation patterns.

"Using a liquid metal – such as eutectic gallium and indium – that can change its shape allows us to modify antenna properties more dramatically than is possible with a fixed conductor," explained Jacob Adams, co-author of the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NCSU, in a press release by the American Institute of Physics.

The team exploited electrochemical reactions to shorten and elongate a filament of liquid metal to alter the antenna's operating frequency. The simplicity of applying a small positive voltage to cause the metal to flow into a capillary, and a small negative voltage to make it withdraw again, obviously takes place on a much smaller scale than the mimetic poly-alloy which makes up the Terminator, but the NCSU boffins are making progress across the board in liquid metals research.

Among previous developments have been a way to print liquid metals into 3D structures at room temperature, those structures being "stabilized by a thin oxide 'skin' that forms on the liquid metal. The approaches shown [in the video below] represent new ways to direct write metals in 3D. In addition, the resulting components can, in principle, self-heal and be ultra-stretchable."

Youtube Video

While the critical properties of solid conductor antennas may be reconfigured by switched circuit elements (e.g., diodes and varactors) at a few locations to modify the current distribution on the device, the use of liquid metal greatly increases the range over which the antenna's operating frequency can be tuned.

"Our antenna prototype using liquid metal can tune over a range of at least two times greater than systems using electronic switches," said Adams.

"Mobile device sizes are continuing to shrink and the burgeoning Internet of Things will likely create an enormous demand for small wireless systems," Adams added, noting more applications for his work. "And as the number of services that a device must be capable of supporting grows, so too will the number of frequency bands over which the antenna and [radiofrequency] front-end must operate. This combination will create a real antenna design challenge for mobile systems because antenna size and operating bandwidth tend to be conflicting tradeoffs."

The ability to miniaturise and adapt tunable antennas may make them highly desirable, especially if they can correct for near-field loading problems such as the iPhone Death Grip effect. Liquid metal systems "yield a larger range of tuning than conventional reconfigurable antennas, and the same approach can be applied to other components such as tunable filters," Adams said.

The researchers have apparently already begun to explore the fundamental and applied elements of tunable liquid metals.

"There's still much to learn about the behavior of the surface oxides and their effect on the surface tension of the metal," Adams told AIP. "And we're studying ways to further improve the efficiency and speed of reconfiguration."

In the long term, Adams and colleagues hope to be able to manipulate the shape of the liquid metal to an ever greater degree, moving away from one-dimensional capillaries towards two-dimensional surfaces which would allow the metals to obtain nearly any desired antenna shape. "This would enable enormous flexibility in the electromagnetic properties of the antenna and allow a single adaptive antenna to perform many functions," he added. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • NASA circles August in its diary to put Artemis I capsule in Moon orbit
    First steps by humans to recapture planet's natural satellite

    NASA is finally ready to launch its unmanned Orion spacecraft and put it in the orbit of the Moon. Lift-off from Earth is now expected in late August using a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

    This launch, a mission dubbed Artemis I, will be a vital stage in the Artemis series, which has the long-term goal of ferrying humans to the lunar surface using Orion capsules and SLS technology.

    Earlier this week NASA held a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) for the SLS vehicle – fueling it and getting within 10 seconds of launch. The test uncovered 13 problems, including a hydrogen fuel leak in the main booster, though NASA has declared that everything's fine for a launch next month.

    Continue reading
  • Photonic processor can classify millions of images faster than you can blink
    We ask again: Has science gone too far?

    Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania say they've developed a photonic deep neural network processor capable of analyzing billions of images every second with high accuracy using the power of light.

    It might sound like science fiction or some optical engineer's fever dream, but that's exactly what researchers at the American university's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences claim to have done in an article published in the journal Nature earlier this month.

    The standalone light-driven chip – this isn't another PCIe accelerator or coprocessor – handles data by simulating brain neurons that have been trained to recognize specific patterns. This is useful for a variety of applications including object detection, facial recognition, and audio transcription to name just a few.

    Continue reading
  • World’s smallest remote-controlled robots are smaller than a flea
    So small, you can't feel it crawl

    Video Robot boffins have revealed they've created a half-millimeter wide remote-controlled walking robot that resembles a crab, and hope it will one day perform tasks in tiny crevices.

    In a paper published in the journal Science Robotics , the boffins said they had in mind applications like minimally invasive surgery or manipulation of cells or tissue in biological research.

    With a round tick-like body and 10 protruding legs, the smaller-than-a-flea robot crab can bend, twist, crawl, walk, turn and even jump. The machines can move at an average speed of half their body length per second - a huge challenge at such a small scale, said the boffins.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022