Accoustic Levitation and the Tractor Beam, the Impossible just became Incredible…

Levitation and the defiance of gravities surly bond has been a science that  struggled to keep up with its own mythology, until now.

A team of Japanese researchers have this week demonstrated the first technology that not only brings the mythology of levitation to life but leap frogs it to create a tractor beam, lifting and moving objects across 3 dimensions using sound alone.

Presented for your viewing pleasure is the astounding video of acoustic levitation in action, now including tractor beam. Sit back relax and prepare to watch the future arrive, gliding effortlessly.

Scientists from the University of Tokyo and Nagoya Institute of Technology are now able to levitate and move any object in 3 dimensions. The size is currently limited to objects only a few millimetres in size; ideally the object must be smaller than the size of the wave being used. Making it difficult to lift larger sized objects, but not impossible with enough acoustic power.

highpants-accoustic-levitation-stillThis latest acoustic levitation technique uses multiple ultrasonic transducers (speakers) arranged in a phased array to create a standing wave that surrounds the suspended object forming a node, or sonic bubble. Altering the focal point of the array of speakers allows the object trapped in the sonic bubble to be moved.

Using harmonics to generate a standing wave to suspend objects isn’t a new technology; many demonstrators have even managed to upset PETA by levitating live animals. With previous technology control was only possible in 2 dimensions, enough to lift and hold in place a small animal.

It’s not the only way to levitate animals either, superconducting magnets are still by far the coolest way to levitate living animals, the vapor and bemused look on the animals face gives it a far more mad experiment look and fell.

Acoustic levitation is only in its infancy, with so many science fiction dreams requiring levitation let’s hope the developments continue. Now if they could get the transducer speakers to play music while they’re lifting stuff we might have next year’s must have Christmas present.

Reference: Research Papers
Reference: The Wire