Sound waves put levitation on the move | Science News

Be a Champion for Science

Get your subscription to

Science News when you join.


Sound waves put levitation on the move

Technique transports nonmagnetic particles such as cells, water droplets and coffee grounds

3:19pm, July 15, 2013

FLOATING OBJECTS  Using a platform of aluminum blocks to manipulate sound  waves, researchers can move levitating objects (such as this droplet of fluorescent green dye). 

Levitating objects can spin, glide and collide together — no magnets or magic tricks required.

Using steady streams of sound waves, engineers maneuvered hovering toothpicks, coffee granules and water droplets through the air, a team from ETH Zurich reports July 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists could use the touch-free technique to gently handle delicate or hazardous lab chemicals or to avoid contaminating cells in biological experiments.

“It’s a beautiful piece of work,” says Penn State bioengineer Tony Jun Huang, who has used sound to manipulate particles in liquid. In a single device, the study’s authors can move two airborne particles in different directions or make them converge. No one has done that before, Huang says.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More Math & Technology articles