Incredible Video Shows Flubber-Like “Magnetic Slime” Capable of Grabbing Objects

Researchers have created incredible “magnetic slime” robots that have been likened to the substance of the same name from the 1997 sci-fi comedy Flubber.

The dark, magnetic slime is able to navigate tight spaces and grab solid objects, according to the research team that developed it.

The researchers described the magnetic slime, which has a pudding-like consistency, in a study published in the journal Advanced functional materials. A video of the “Magnetic Slime” can be seen here.

The authors wrote in the study that miniature soft-bodied magnetic robots could enable “non-invasive access to confined spaces” and have potential medical applications by providing “ideal solutions” for minimally invasive surgery and targeted drug delivery.

However, the researchers said existing elastomer- and fluid-based magnetic soft robots have limitations. Elastomers are rubbery materials made up of long, chain-like molecules known as polymers.

Due to their limited deformability, elastomer-based soft robots cannot navigate through highly constrained environments, although they can manipulate objects. In contrast, liquid-based soft robots, while better able to self-deform and navigate through tight spaces, are also limited by the unstable shape of the liquid itself.

Stock image showing a person holding slime. Researchers have created incredible “magnetic slime” robots that can navigate tight spaces and grab objects.

To address this problem, the researchers developed a magnetic slime robot that combines the properties of both elastomer-based and liquid-based soft robots.

“The robots can drive through narrow channels with a diameter of 1.5 mm [millimeter; a little over 1/32 inch] and maneuver on multiple substrates in complex environments,” the authors write in the study.

They said the slime robot has multiple abilities, including grasping solid objects, swallowing and transporting harmful things, and even fixing broken electrical circuits.

“This study proposes the design of novel soft-bodied robots and improves their future applications in biomedical, electronic and other fields,” the authors wrote.

The slime consists of a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol mixed with a powdered, white substance called borax and magnetic particles made from the rare earth metal neodymium.

Li Zhang, co-creator of the slime and one of the authors of the study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, narrates The guard that the slime has “viscoelastic properties,” meaning it sometimes behaves like a solid and sometimes like a liquid. In fact, the viscosity of the substance changes under the action of force.

“If you touch it very quickly, it behaves like a solid. If you touch it gently and slowly, it behaves like a liquid,” Zhang said.

The magnetic particles in the slime can be manipulated with external magnets to make the robot move, rotate, or form “C” and “O” shapes.

In the future, such a magnetic robot could be used for medical applications, for example, to remove objects that have been accidentally swallowed.

“The ultimate goal is to use it like a robot,” Zhang said, noting that the slime lacks autonomy for now. “We still think of it as basic research – trying to understand its material properties.”

Currently, the magnetic particles in the slime are toxic, so the researchers covered the robots with a layer of silica to create a hypothetical protective layer.

“The security [would] also depend a lot on how long you would keep them in your body,” Zhang said.

Several users on social media compared the magnetic slime to the imaginary substance depicted in the Flubber movie. “You call it ‘a robot made of magnetic slime,’ I call it ‘Flubber,'” said one Twitter user.

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