Science Bulletin

, Volume 60, Issue 10, pp 943–951 | Cite as

Autonomous convergence and divergence of the self-powered soft liquid metal vehicles

  • Jie Zhang
  • Youyou Yao
  • Jing LiuEmail author
Article Engineering Sciences


Conventional rigid machines, even biological systems in nature, generally do not own the capabilities like autonomous convergence or divergence. Here, such extraordinary behavior was demonstrated for the first time with the liquid metal vehicle. This synthetic soft machine fueled with an aluminum flake could initiate its autonomous locomotion in an open-top circular channel containing NaOH solution, like a running vehicle. If cutting a large machine into several smaller separately running vehicles, each of them still resumes its traveling state along the original track and chases each other. If the volumes of such dispersive vehicles were close to each other and they were all squeezed in the channel, the vehicles would move synchronously with oscillation. Otherwise, such self-motion would become desynchronized with interval between the inequable vehicles decreased gradually. If their volumes were significantly different, and the smaller vehicles were not squeezed in the channel, the faster vehicle would overtake the slower ones, until they finally coalesced seamlessly. The assembled vehicle could deform itself along with change of its velocity. This finding may shed light on future researches on smart material, fluid mechanics and soft matter to self-fueled machine and biomimics. It would also offer opportunities for constructing self-reconfigurable soft robots.


Liquid metal Self-fueled machine Soft robot Autonomous convergence and divergence Soft matter 





液态金属 自驱动机器 柔性机器人 自主合并及分离 软物质 



This work was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51376102).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 6 (DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of MedicineTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Cryogenics, Technical Institute of Physics and ChemistryChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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