Most movies are works of fiction, but the plots are based on real-world ideas. Including, apparently, the nightmarish future put forth in Terminator 2. A team of researchers from North Carolina State University decided the world would be a better place with terrifying shape-shifting T-1000s, and so have developed a way to control and manipulate liquid metals. Maybe they didn’t watch the whole movie?
Working with a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium, the researchers discovered that by applying a very low voltage, they could control and manipulate the surface tension of the material. Usually liquid metals tend to bead up into spheres as a result of their strong surface tension, but the applied voltage reduces that, causing the material to succumb to gravity and flatten into a pancake.
The effect is also reversible; if the applied charge is flipped from negative to positive, the liquid metal returns to a spherical shape. So for the time being the researchers aren’t going to be creating shape-shifting, time-travelling assassins using this breakthrough, but they do envision the research possibly revolutionizing how electronics and circuits are produced, or giving them the ability to automatically adapt as needed, like changing the shape of your smartphone’s antenna to better tune into a weaker signal.