A team of scientists developed the first liquid metal lattice in the world, made from Field’s alloy. The Field’s mix of indium, tin, and bismuth becomes liquid at the relatively low melting point of 144 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pu Zhang is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Binghamton University and succeeded in gathering Ph.D. students, Quang-Kha Nguyen and Fanghang Deng, and realized quite the ambitious project. They also proved that the Field’s alloy could have other applications rather than as a liquid-metal coolant in nuclear engineering.
The team of researchers mixed the metal lattice material with a rubber shell using a hybrid developing process. Such a new method comprises 3D printing, conformal coating (utilized on electronic circuitry to avoid dust, chemicals, and extreme temperatures), and vacuum casting.
Liquid Metal Lattice and a Rubber Shell Project
Zhang explained how significant the shell is because, without it, it wouldn’t have work, and the liquid metal would have flown away. The shell also supports the overall integrity and shape, so the liquid metal itself can be comprised of the channels. The team explained that they needed almost half a year to develop such a project because the new lattice material is challenging to process.
Zhang and his colleagues realized a series of prototypes that retake their shapes after being heated to the melting point. The prototypes include a “spider web-” like mesh antennas, soccer balls, honeycombs, and the letters BUME – the Binghamton University Mechanical Engineering. The properties obtained from the prototypes could inspire lots of uses. When the liquid metal is in a solid-state, for instance, it is sturdy and safe.
The liquid metal lattice also absorbs a lot of energy when smashed; then, after a re-heating and cooling, it returns to its initial shape and can be reutilized. Zhang added: “Using this Field’s alloy, you can crash into it like other metals, but then heat it later to recover its shape. You can use it over and over again.”