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Q&A

How would utility fluids move and stay together?

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The concept of utility fogs is actually pretty old. The idea is a swarm of fairly small micromachines (about 100 micrometers in length) that would be able to mimic most materials and objects.

Each foglet (an individual micromachine of the swarm) has numerous arms that it can use to connect to other foglets and share energy, information, or to form a bond as part of building up an object.

Utility fluids are supposed to be capable of roughly the same, however, they would be suspended in a liquid, instead of hovering in the air. There are some issues with that. Namely:

  1. Moving the swarm becomes more difficult as liquids are pretty heavy, compared to air. This gets even worse if the swarm was to scale obstacles.
  2. Keeping the swarm together is also an issue, though intermolecular forces, such as cohesion, might be of some help.

The energy source of micromachines is often questioned. Utility fluids might be able to use energy-dense chemicals within the fluid they're suspended in, while airborne micromachines could be semi-organic and use glucose. The original concept for utility fogs had them use hydrogen.

How would utility fluids be able to move and keep themselves together?

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You ask about fluids, but have already shown that this works in air or some gasses. If you are asking specifically about liquids (a subset of fluids), then use the right liquids. You need something that won't evaporate quickly, nor wet other surfaces easily. That may be a tough problem.

Otherwise, a bunch of nanites in a liquid would be more like a structure rather than a swarm in a gas. If the liquid is viscous enough, then the nanites push it around from inside. Think of the nanites being like a deformable sponge, with the liquid stuck in the sponge.

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