Researchers Develop Material that can Change Between Hard and Soft States

A team of MIT researchers created a phase-changing material built from wax and foam that could be used to build deformable surgical robots. These robots could switch between hard and soft states without damaging organs or vessels as it travels through the body.

The researchers created the material by coating a foam structure with wax. When the wax is heated, the material turns soft and pliable, and when cooled, it returns to its original shape. If a structure made of this material were damaged, it could be easily repaired by heating the wax to return it to its original configuration. The researchers are looking at other ways to use alternative materials for robots including magnetorheological or electrorheological fluids, where these fluids could be transferred from a soft state to a rigid state when a magnetic or electric field is applied.

Read more about the phase-changing materials and watch a video demonstrating how this material can change states.