Soundwaves grab, hold and move objects
Researchers have created a system that uses soundwaves to grab, hold and move objects around. These holographic acoustic elements, harnessed using a system designed by scientists at the University of Bristol in the UK, are powered by an ultrasonic phased array of 64 loudspeakers. Critically its operating environment is flexible, whereas similar previous projects have needed a closed, laboratory environment to work properly.
Researchers have demonstrated the technology by causing pea-sized objects to levitate. They have suggested the system could be used to power 3D physical displays, transport and construct delicate or sterile objects, to facilitate targeted drug delivery in a medical scenario, or even to allow humans to levitate.
Writing in a paper for Nature Communications, the researchers outlined their vision for the technology’s applications: “Controlled 3D trapping, translation and rotation with a single-sided array would enable acoustic tweezers to become the larger-scale counterparts of optical tweezers, opening up applications in materials processing, micro-scale manufacturing and biomedicine.”