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Sonic Tractor Beam Uses Holographic Sound Waves to Move Objects

Image: Sonic Tractor Beam Uses Holographic Sound Waves to Move Objects
Holographic acoustic elements for manipulation of levitated objects. (Nature Communications)

By    |   Wednesday, 28 Oct 2015 08:23 AM

A sonic tractor beam that can move things using sound waves has been built in collaboration with the University of Bristol and University of Sussex, according to a Bristol statement Tuesday.

Details about the tractor beam were published Tuesday in the science journal Nature Communications. Researchers used high-amplitude sound waves to generate an acoustic hologram which could then pick up and move small objects, according to Bristol University.

"It was an incredible experience the first time we saw the object held in place by the tractor beam," Asier Marzo, a Bristol doctorate student and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. "All my hard work has paid off, it's brilliant."

The tractor beam could be used as a sonic production line to transport delicate objects and assemble them without physical contact, said the university statement. The Guardian reported that researchers believe the device could one day be helpful via medical applications since the sound waves can travel through body tissue.

"It could be used to manipulate kidney stones, clots, or microsurgical instruments that you control from outside, without having to make any incisions in the patient," Marzo told The Guardian. "Or you could hold a drug wherever you wanted to inside a patient, so it doesn't go anywhere else in the body."

Scientists used 64 mini loudspeakers to create high-pitch, high-intensity sound waves. The tractor beam surrounded the object with high-intensity sound to create a force field, keeping objects in place.

From there, researchers used the speakers' output to move and rotate the objects.

"Sound can levitate objects of different sizes and materials through air, water and tissue," the Nature Communication study abstract reads. "This allows us to manipulate cells, liquids, compounds or living things without touching or contaminating them."

"However, acoustic levitation has required the targets to be enclosed with acoustic elements or had limited maneuverability. Here we optimize the phases used to drive an ultrasonic phased array and show that acoustic levitation can be employed to translate, rotate and manipulate particles using even a single-sided emitter," the abstract statement continued.

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A sonic tractor beam that can move things using sound waves has been built in collaboration with the University of Bristol and University of Sussex, according to a Bristol statement Tuesday.
sonic, tractor, beam, sound, move
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2015-23-28
Wednesday, 28 Oct 2015 08:23 AM
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