Scientists have created a moving magnetic slime capable of encircling smaller objects, self-healing and “very large deformation” to squeeze and travel through narrow spaces. The slime, which is controlled by magnets, is also a good electrical conductor and can be used to interconnect electrodes, its creators say.
Prof Li Zhang, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who co-created the slime, emphasised that the substance was real scientific research and not an April fool’s joke, despite the timing of its release. The slime contains magnetic particles so that it can be manipulated to travel, rotate, or form O and C shapes when external magnets are applied to it. The blob was described in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Functional Materials as a “magnetic slime robot”.
The slime has “visco-elastic properties”, Zhang said, meaning that “sometimes it behaves like a solid, sometimes it behaves like a liquid”. It is made of a mixture of a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol, borax – which is widely used in cleaning products – and particles of neodymium magnet.
While the team have no immediate plans to test it in a medical setting, the scientists envisage the slime could be useful in the digestive system, for example in reducing the harm from a small swallowed battery.
The magnetic particles in the slime, however, are toxic themselves. The researchers coated the slime in a layer of silica – the main component in sand – to form a hypothetically protective layer. “The safety would also strongly depend on how long you would keep them inside of your body,” Zhang said.