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Scientists Manage to Levitate and Move Particles With Sound Waves

by Brandon Russell | January 5, 2014January 5, 2014 8:00 am PST

Through sound—and sound only—Japanese scientists have figured out a way to levitate and move particles, as if Darth Vader was using the Force. Demonstrations are captured on video, and the effect is absolutely mesmerizing. It really does look like something straight out of science fiction, but it’s absolutely real. This same technique, with enough energy, can seemingly move any object, big or small. I think I already feel the plot of a movie coming on.

The process is basically setup by positioning two ultrasonic phased arrays to make a focal point, which then generates a standing wave. Particles can then become “trapped” at the nodes, allowing scientists to manipulate the particles by moving the standing wave three-dimensionally. Particles can escape from the nodes, but the demonstrations clearly show what’s possible when they’re caught up. So far, the research team has successfully been able to levitate and move a feather, alcohol droplets, soap bubbles and numerous small resistor electronic components.

The ultrasonic frequencies being created are apparently at the edge of a human’s hearing, so the method is nearly silent. Unless you’re a dog. The team published its findings in a research paper, which describes why the method is so significant. It looks awesome; maybe we’ll see the team eventually lift something more substantial, like a car or even a ship.

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...