Mechanical Engineering News

Research video: Liquid Metal, Shaping the World

New, innovative manufacturing through interdisciplinary research

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July 28, 2021

Tokyo Institute of Technology(Tokyo Tech)is a science and engineering university that conducts research in various fields. Taking advantage of this diversity, Tokyo Tech is also focusing on interdisciplinary research aimed at producing innovative insights and knowledge that transcend existing research fields. In fact, young researchers are concentrating their abilities beyond the boundaries of their areas of expertise and conducting applied research on liquid metals. A research summary video called "Liquid Metal, Shaping our world" was released in June 2021(viewing time: about 4 minutes).

This video explains the appeal of metals that become liquids like water and oil at a relatively low temperature, and the unique applied research on them. When we think of liquid metal, we imagine metal in iron-making and the metal welding process. In addition, liquid metal is known to transfer heat well, and its use as a refrigerant in energy plants is also well known. This video shows how researchers are making an impact by trying completely different application methods.

The first half of the video explains the development of "fusible metal fiber reinforced concrete," which Associate Professor Masatoshi Kondo(Institute of Innovative Research, specializes in liquid metal technology)is researching in collaboration with Associate Professor Nobuhiro Chijiwa(Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the School of Environment and Society, specializes in concrete structures)and Assistant Professor Minho O (Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the School of Materials and Chemical Technology, specializes in metal chemistry).

This collaborative research on "fusible metal fiber reinforced concrete for a zero-waste society" was selected in May 2019 for the first "Interdisciplinary Research Support for Scientists" established with the Tokyo Institute of Technology Fund. The three researchers met at the 2nd Tokyo Tech Research Festival 2018(an on-campus event with the aim of promoting interdisciplinary research)and started their collaborative research. This event was held in November 2018 with the hope that promising on-campus researchers would meet and create new unanticipated collaborative and integrated research.

The second half of the video presents collaborative research with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan led by Katsuya Murakami, a 4th year(at that time)bachelor's degree student(Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering)in the Kondo Laboratory. The research attempted to build a concave mirror by solidifying liquid metal as it rotates, and apply it to the primary mirror of a large telescope. They are trying to solve the long-running problem of how to fabricate large mirrors with innovative ideas and apply them to space exploration. This research was triggered by an encounter at Site Visit 2019. "Site Visit" is a program run by the National Institutes of Natural Science(Inter-University Research Institute Corporation)where researchers from various fields inside and outside the institution meet and interact. This initiative produced unexpected discoveries and collaborations between "liquid metal" and the "universe".

Tokyo Tech will continue to present videos from the forefront of various research endeavors at Tokyo Tech and interdisciplinary research brought about by miraculous encounters. There's a lot to look forward to.

Collaborating researchers from the video

  • Associate Professor Masatoshi Kondo, Tokyo Institute of Technology (liquid metal technology research)
  • Associate Professor Nobuhiro Chijiwa, Tokyo Institute of Technology (concrete structures research)
  • Assistant Professor Minho O, Tokyo Institute of Technology (metal chemistry research)
  • University Research Administrator (URA) Motoko Inoue, Tokyo Institute of Technology (promotion of interdisciplinary research)
  • Satoshi Noboru, Group Leader in Materials and Structures, Comprehensive Technology Research Center, Fudo Tetra Corporation
  • Katsuya Murakami, 4th year (at the time) Bachelor's Degree Student of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Tokyo Institute of Technology, School of Engineering
  • Associate Professor Yutaka Hayano, Advanced Technology Center / Thirty Meter Telescope Project / Subaru Telescope, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
  • Assistant Professor Yuichi Matsuda, ALMA Project, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
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