Sound is not often thought of as being a physical force, music may make you move your feet but no one would believe that it could lift you out of your seat. That was until this week when an international team of researchers led by Bristol University demonstrated the latest advancements of acoustic projection that is able to build acoustic holograms that can levitate objects or act as a tractor beam.
While technology that uses projected sound to manipulate physical objects has been maturing in labs for the last few decades the latest technology might just be good enough to escape the lab and actually lead to real products.
Previous techniques for achieving acoustic levitation have required multiple audio transmitters to produce the levitation force. Typically in the past transmitters have been placed on two or 4 sides and below the object. This was effective at levitating but very impractical from a real world perspective. To be considered a practical tractor beam this needs to change to using just a single transmitter located in the direction you wanted to pull or push the object from. This is exactly the breakthrough the latest technology achieves.
This new technology has been dubbed an Acoustic Hologram and is able to control multiple objects, move them in all directions and change the objects orientation. At the moment the current array can manipulate 3mm polystyrene spheres. Manipulating larger objects will require more powerful transducers of course.
So what can we use acoustic holograms for? How will they change the world? Aside from the sci-fi tractor beam the manufacturing, medical and chemical production industries are eyeing this technology off with much interest. The ability to assemble objects without contact, mixing chemicals that react on contact and many things that are impossible today become an incredible possibility. Then there is the hoverboard and hover car, hover vehicles that could operate anywhere on any surface.
Reference: Spectrum IEEE
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