Nat Commun. 2022 Dec 23;13(1):7919. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-35646-y.
Miniature magnetic soft machines could significantly impact minimally invasive robotics and biomedical applications. However, most soft machines are limited to solid magnetic materials, whereas further progress also relies on fluidic constructs obtained by reconfiguring liquid magnetic materials, such as ferrofluid. Here we show how harnessing the wettability of ferrofluids allows for controlled reconfigurability and the ability to create versatile soft machines. The ferrofluid droplet exhibits multimodal motions, and a single droplet can be controlled to split into multiple sub-droplets and then re-fuse back on demand. The soft droplet machine can negotiate changing terrains in unstructured environments. In addition, the ferrofluid droplets can be configured as a liquid capsule, enabling cargo delivery; a wireless omnidirectional liquid cilia matrix capable of pumping biofluids; and a wireless liquid skin, allowing multiple types of miniature soft machine construction. This work improves small magnetic soft machines’ achievable complexity and boosts their future biomedical applications capabilities.