Scientists have figured out a way to turn liquid into a new type of material that can be sliced and molded into different shapes. In the video above, from New Scientist, the substance yields like Play-Doh under the pressure of a knife and acts like water when presented with another liquid globule with which it can merge together. 

In a paper recently published in the journal Soft Matter, the team of scientists from Tongji University in Shanghai, China explain how they used a familiar technique to create this unique material. To stabilize water droplets into liquid marbles, the droplets need to be coated with a hydrophobic powder that allows the liquid to hold its form. Surface tension gives the marbles their spherical shape while the powder makes them opaque. With this new substance, the researchers were able to create a translucent liquid object capable of adopting any shape. They did so by drying super-thin, 20-nanometer layers of silica particles on glass slides. Placing droplets of water on the slides coated them in a single layer of the silica, leaving the scientists with a material as clear as pure water.

The substance, dubbed “liquid plasticine” by the team, can be manipulated into any form with the use of hydrophobic tools. Their convex shape means they could be used as liquid magnifying glasses, and researchers also imagine they could make useful miniature test tubes: When chemicals were added to the droplets, they diffused slower than expected, therefore slowing down any reactions that took place. And unlike liquid marbles, their transparency makes it easy to observe any chemical processes going on inside.

[h/t: New Scientist

Banner image courtesy of New Scientist via YouTube.