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Frozen oil could be the key to shapeshifting materials

Those odd shapes hint at a future of artificial structures with lifelike behavior.

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Those odd, glowing shapes may look like they're straight out of a weird puzzle game, but don't laugh... they may be crucial to a future of ever-changing materials. British and Bulgarian scientists have discovered that oil droplets will form octagons, triangles and other not-so-natural shapes if you slowly freeze them while they're in a soapy solution. On top of that, they'll revert to their original states if you warm them back up. The results are more than a little odd, as you can see here -- they're non-living chemicals taking on artificial shapes in a lifelike way.

It's still early going, but the implications are huge. If researchers can find a way to produce specific shapes and make them stick, they could have shapeshifting materials whose properties change on the fly. In that sense, flexible devices could be just the first step toward gadgets whose very nature adapts to your needs.

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