Watch: Magnetic, ‘soft’ robot can go from solid to liquid, escape cage

A magnetic robot that can alternate between solid and liquid form may one day be used on soldering machines, screws for smart assembly and even delivering drugs to your stomach.

Researchers at Sun Yat-sen University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Zhejiang University created the robot using a class of magnetoactive phase transitional matter (MPTM). MPTM can shift shapes through magnetic field heating and ambient cooling.

Video of the robot shows it transform from a solid, robot-looking object in a cage to what appears as a liquid seeping through the cage bars.

The researchers said MPTMs could have multiple uses in the future, like serving as universal screws used in hard-to-reach places and "drug delivery in a model stomach."

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"MPTMs are promising for future applications in flexible electronics, healthcare, and robotics that depend on dynamic shape reconfigurability and repair," researchers said in the study.