Liquid metals are a series of metals and alloys with low melting points, which often exhibit many unconventional properties superior to the traditional materials. Although a series of important unique features of the liquid metals have been gradually disclosed in recent years, a systematic interpretation on these new generation functional materials is lacking.
To push forward further research in the area, an article by Jing Liu an co-workers is dedicated to presenting a comprehensive review on the recent academic progresses as made on the three major themes regarding preparations, characteristics and applications of liquid metal materials. These three aspects are closely related to each other such that various specific preparation methods may lead to different material forms, and thus endow the original liquid metals with rather diversified characteristics, which then significantly expand their application ranges so as to meet various needs.
Among the many fabrication methods ever developed, this article focuses on illustrating the most effective approaches in making various desirable functional liquid metals such as alloying, oxidizing, droplet making, surface coating, nanoparticle adding and material compositing, etc. The thermal, electrical, magnetic, fluidic and chemical properties involved in the modification of the material characteristics are interpreted.
Regarding the diverse breakthrough applications, a series of newly emerging technologies such as liquid metal cooling, printed electronics, 3D printing, bioelectrodes, bone substitution, radiological contrast medium, drug delivery, tumor therapy, soft robots, microfluidics, energy harvesting, catalysts, 2D materials are explained.
Furthermore, potential ways for further innovative fabrication, characterization and evaluation of the functional liquid metal materials are suggested. Overall, though challenges still remained, new-generation liquid metal materials have unlocked the doors towards the next big wave of research with broader academic and technological views. This area will witness an ever brighter future in the coming years.