Liquid metals can change colors: study

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BEIJING, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese researchers have found that the colors of gallium-based liquid metals can be changed by electrolysis, according to a study published in Applied Materials and Interfaces of American Chemical Society.

The study, conducted by researchers of the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, found colors ranging from white to gold and black appearing on the surface of liquid metal when placed on a graphite substrate and mixed with aluminum foil in an electrolyte solution.

A stable liquid-metal functional material with a rainbow-like appearance is realized under the regulation of an electric field.

Further composition and structure characterization revealed that it is a nanoscale oxidized gallium film that displays the multicolor characteristic.

The nanostructural film indicates that light scattering of oxidized gallium occurs when the liquid metal is on the graphite surface, and thin-film interference triggers rainbow-like colors when the liquid metals are subjected to electrolysis.

Gallium-based room-temperature liquid metals are becoming increasingly attractive and outstanding candidates for designing soft robots because of their remarkable electrical conductivity, superior flexibility, excellent stability and low toxicity.

However, the color of liquid metals is limited to shiny silver-white with high reflectivity, which is not helpful for camouflage, like that found in natural soft animals.

These results provide a route to create colorful liquid metals, which are expected to have diverse applications, especially in reinforcing soft robot design with intelligent camouflage functions. Enditem

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