Scientists Invent Magnetic Robot Slime That Has Potential To Retrieve All The Weird Things Kids Swallow

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Kids will swallow the craziest sh*t. Since becoming a mother 12 years ago, I have called Poison Control a handful of times because my kids ate mango-scented sunscreen, half a tube of toothpaste, poster paint, and the ink from inside a Sharpie.

Yes, inside, my kids got the ink stick out, sucked it dry, and then shoved it back in the case, God help me.  

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Well, scientists in China may have found the coolest (and creepiest) way to help kids who swallow weird stuff that shouldn’t have been in their mouths, to begin with.

It’s been dubbed the robot magnetic slime and it looks like poop that can move. 

The slime was co-invented by Professor Li Zhang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong where researchers are using the magnetic slime to conduct research.

Unfortunately, the immediate PR for this invention had some funny timing and was introduced to the world on April Fool’s Day, making folks around the world scratch their heads and wonder if this was a joke. 

The slime was originally described in detail in a study published in Advanced Functional Materials.

“Magnetic miniature soft-bodied robots allow non-invasive access to restricted spaces and provide ideal solutions for minimally invasive surgery, micromanipulation, and targeted drug delivery.” 

This could be a great tool for doctors to use to help kids who swallow potentially dangerous objects like magnets or other small objects.  

Since the slime can be easily manipulated to surround the object and guide it through the digestive tract, it potentially prevents harm. 

“The ultimate goal is to deploy it like a robot,” Zhang told The Guardian. “We still consider it as fundamental research – trying to understand its material properties.”

So, what is this slime, anyway?

Well, you might be familiar with oobleck, that fun cornstarch and water experiment every little kid tries at least once and destroys a clean kitchen in the process. It’s a bit like that.

Black slime for kids, transparent funny toy.
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The slime is created by mixing polyvinyl alcohol, borax, and neodymium magnet.

But, we don’t recommend you attempt to make this on your own at home, kids. 

“It’s very much like mixing water with starch at home,” Zhang told The Guardian. “When you touch it very quickly it behaves like a solid.

When you touch it gently and slowly it behaves like a liquid,” this is called a non-Newtonian fluid, which means that the viscosity changes under force.

Bet you didn’t realize you’d be learning some physics this morning, huh?

The slime is still in the research phase, however.

While it has not yet been used on a human subject to retrieve anything from a digestive tract, the invention appears to be quite promising. 

There are no current plans to test the material in a medical setting, according to Zhang, however, we do hope that with the interest this particular invention is getting that that may change soon. 

Check out this video from the New Scientist YouTube feed that demonstrates how this bizarre new invention works.

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