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Scientists Use Sound Waves To Levitate, Move Objects

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the they-like-to-move-it-move-it dept.

Science 78

sciencehabit writes "The tragic opera Rigoletto may move you to tears, but here's a more literal application of the moving power of sound. Sound waves with frequencies just above human hearing can levitate tiny particles and liquid droplets and even move them around, a team of engineers has demonstrated. The advance could open up new ways to handle delicate materials or mix pharmaceuticals."

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78 comments

URI GELLAR APPROVES THIS ARTICLE !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289511)

And endorses slashdot !!

What higher praise !!

WFT is up with the summary? (1, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44289533)

Just for the record all Opera moves me tears, what the fuck is up with the middle school rhetorical flourish?

Also this is basically decades old. How much is /. getting for the clicks?

Re:WFT is up with the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289713)

Blame the author of the article, not the submitter.

Re:WFT is up with the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290037)

I would blame the submitter for the ?ref=hp

Re:WFT is up with the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290017)

the only way opera moves me to tears is from the awful sound of it. to each his own.

Re:WFT is up with the summary? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290257)

Oh shut the fuck up. It's just a few words. A pun even. If you can't stand even the slightest iota of humor on your Internet then I suggest you GTFO and let the rest of us enjoy it.

Re:WFT is up with the summary? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291781)

Oh shut the fuck up. It's just a few words. A pun even. If you can't stand even the slightest iota of criticism on your Internet then I suggest you GTFO and let the rest of us enjoy it.

Beer fog? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289535)

A whole new way to enjoy your beverages. Beats some of the other methods.

Better summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289543)

Acoustic levitation is nothing new, what they've done is found a way to move stuff around while it's levitating.

And here's a decent link for those who don't feel like contributing to someone's page counter.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/07/10/1301860110

Re:Better summary (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#44289889)

Acoustic levitation is nothing new, what they've done is found a way to move stuff around while it's levitating.

And here's a decent link for those who don't feel like contributing to someone's page counter.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/07/10/1301860110

I move things around on a regular basis, but only when I have a ready supply of beans.

Re:Better summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44293859)

Not only that, but translating objects in 3 dimensions while suspended (levitating) in an acoustic field is also something that is not new. I worked at a firm which developed -- and produced and sold -- such technology in the early nineties.

How powerful? (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about 9 months ago | (#44289573)

Can the bottom of my car be a flat surface which vibrates sprayed water droplets, thus slightly levitating the vehicle and allowing forward movement via those particles?

Re:How powerful? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289587)

Isn't that a boat?

This is not new... (2)

Grog6 (85859) | about 9 months ago | (#44289615)

Sand on a 15" speaker, an amp, and a signal generator was a fixture of Hamfests in the 70's.

Ever notice how sliding a desk across a floor is really heard to do, then gets easier?
It's because it's levitating part of the mass on trapped sound waves under the sliding feet...

This is old news by now.

Re:This is not new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289743)

The new thing is moving droplets that are levitated in such a way while keeping them intact, if I understand the article correctly. From TFA, complete with car analogy:

"...Scientists have learned how to hold increasingly heavy particles including superdense iridium and even liquid droplets in this acoustic sweet spot.

But until now, that was pretty much the extent of the trick, says mechanical engineer Dimos Poulikakos of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. 'It's like we had a car which we made fancier and fancier, but it stayed parked. We were never able to drive.' Moving a liquid with sound is a delicate balancing act, he says. As you vary the acoustic force to push the droplet around, you run the risk of shattering it with too much pressure."

Re:This is not new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289819)

Ever notice how sliding a desk across a floor is really heard to do, then gets easier? It's because it's levitating part of the mass on trapped sound waves under the sliding feet...

Yes, that would explain why u_k = u_s on heavily damped surfaces like carpet... oh, wait, it isn't.

Re:This is not new... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290301)

Yeah i'm pretty sure it's not sound that helps you move desks.
Once you overcome static friction it becomes easier because sustaining an objects speed at x is less energy intensive than accelerating it from 0 to x.

Re:This is not new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291739)

Depends on your amp =)

Re:This is not new... (1)

slew (2918) | about 9 months ago | (#44290367)

Ever notice how sliding a desk across a floor is really heard to do, then gets easier?
It's because it's levitating part of the mass on trapped sound waves under the sliding feet...

I don't think so. I think the desk is an example of Stick/slip [wikipedia.org] , not sound wave levitation...

Of course this acoustic levitation stuff isn't new, every few years someone comes up with crap like this [livescience.com] ... Or somehow suggests that similar standing sound waves which cause sonoluminescence [wikipedia.org] can be used for stuff like cold fusion.

Re:This is not new... (1)

CurunirAran (2811035) | about 9 months ago | (#44290417)

Ever notice how sliding a desk across a floor is really heard to do, then gets easier? It's because it's levitating part of the mass on trapped sound waves under the sliding feet...

This is old news by now.

What? It has nothing whatsoever to do with sound waves, but rather the fact that the coefficient of static friction is higher than that of kinetic friction.

When you are stationary, you are working against static friction. Once you are moving, however, you are doing work against kinetic friction, which is a weaker force for most substances.

Re:This is not new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44293559)

Saying "the coefficient of kinetic friction is lower" doesn't explain why it is lower.

The idea that sound waves cause it to levitate is bullshit, but that leaves open the question of why the coefficient of kinetic friction is lower. My hypothesis has always been that in the case of desks and floors, it is due to the desk vibrating vertically as a result of the sliding, essentially bouncing up and down, which means it's only in full contact with the floor for part of the time. In cases where this bouncing doesn't happen (two clean metal blocks, for example), there is little or no difference between kinetic and static friction.

That is not levitation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290679)

You somehow seem to be confusing levitation with bouncing up and down against a surface. Something like Buzz Lightyear mixing up flying with falling...

Re:This is not new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291285)

Ah... The ol' cymatics. [youtube.com]

I'm guessing what's new though is they found a way to better control where the peaks and troughs are in interference patterns instead of just letting them happen randomly. So if you had a computer store enough patterns for a range of frequencies, you could probably steer a small object through a simple maze by jumping to specific freqencies most likely to push it where you wanted it.

Re:This is not new... (1)

gnomff (2740801) | about 9 months ago | (#44292559)

From TFA:

Poulikakos's team spent 4 years trying to budge their floating droplets from a standstill. Finally, they conceived of a chessboard-style setup with multiple vibrating plates, each generating its own sound frequency. By varying the frequency that each plate emits, they can move the acoustic field and the object trapped inside. Their new design, described online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can precisely control the lateral movement of liquid droplets while keeping them floating smoothly in midair.

Its the lateral movement and fine control that's new, not the levitation.

Re:This is not new... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 months ago | (#44293923)

...which TFA acknowledges:

Sound waves don't discriminate, however, and physicists worked out the basic principle of "acoustic levitation" nearly a century ago. A vibrating plate generates a sound wave that bounces against another surface to create a stable standing wave. The points of lower pressure in this static pattern can trap a particle. Scientists have learned how to hold increasingly heavy particles including superdense iridium and even liquid droplets in this acoustic sweet spot.

But until now, that was pretty much the extent of the trick, says mechanical engineer Dimos Poulikakos of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. "It's like we had a car which we made fancier and fancier, but it stayed parked. We were never able to drive." Moving a liquid with sound is a delicate balancing act, he says. As you vary the acoustic force to push the droplet around, you run the risk of shattering it with too much pressure.

Old news surely? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 9 months ago | (#44289637)

Back in the 1990s I heard the use of sound waves to move objects proposed as one of the fringe theories for how the pyramids were built, because "people could not have moved those great big blocks such long distances!". So, there must have been earlier work by scientists in moving things with sound waves that crank historians could twist for their own theories.

Re:Old news surely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289757)

I saw someone using kites made of materials-in-use-at-the-time lifting those big blocks and move them like a sky-crane.

Re:Old news surely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289803)

> 'people could not have moved those great big blocks such long distances!'

I always hate it when people say this, because it instantly indicates they have no idea what they are talking about.

I don't think *you* are implying this, I'm just pointing out how silly it is.

Even examining the sentence makes no sense whatsoever... 'people could not have'... People *did*. There isn't any room for 'could not have'.

Re:Old news surely? (5, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44289871)

> 'people could not have moved those great big blocks such long distances!'

I always hate it when people say this, because it instantly indicates they have no idea what they are talking about.

I don't think *you* are implying this, I'm just pointing out how silly it is.

Even examining the sentence makes no sense whatsoever... 'people could not have'... People *did*. There isn't any room for 'could not have'.

Just like the t-shirt says [tshirtsiwant.com]

Re:Old news surely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44293831)

The only evidence they used slaves is the bible and that's not a reliable source.

Re:Old news surely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298223)

Funny, but the great pyramids where NOT built by slaves!

Re:Old news surely? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 9 months ago | (#44290203)

Ppl couldn't have using the technology we think they were limited to. If we limit ourselves to what we think their technology was, can we recreate what they did? That's the meaning of the sentence that seems to have made you respond in such an emotional manner.

Re:Old news surely? (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 9 months ago | (#44289893)

Back in the 1990s I heard the use of sound waves to move objects proposed as one of the fringe theories for how the pyramids were built, because "people could not have moved those great big blocks such long distances!".

In other news, bumblebees cannot fly.

Re:Old news surely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290183)

How does Zahi Hawass *not* qualify as crank historian?

Sound doesnt move a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289661)

Sound doesnt move anything, however the air it touches does, so why not skip the sound part and use air jets ?

Re: Sound doesnt move a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289677)

Wind? Never heard of it.

Re:Sound doesnt move a thing (3, Insightful)

White Flame (1074973) | about 9 months ago | (#44290253)

Because resonances can often get you more bang for your energy buck than direct impulse.

That, and they want to move things carefully and precisely. This seems like it would be a lot more stable than using air flows.

This OLD news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289669)

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/05/10/your-eyes-arent-fooling-you-this-ball-is-levitating-and-heres-how/

More than a YEAR ago they were levitating BOWLING BALLS with sound waves.

Can we cross-hype this with 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289749)

I'd be curious to see what's the most absurd technology you can come up with that's nothing but hype but geeks will defend to the death. Tell 'em Elon Musk is backing it too. In space. Let's see, "private air jets used to 3D print in space". Absurd enough?

Re:Can we cross-hype this with 3D printing? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 9 months ago | (#44290213)

Like Simon Newcombe and Lord Kelvin proving that heavier-than-air aircraft were impossible!

Re:Can we cross-hype this with 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290295)

and all it took was two bike mechanics to put a home made engine on a kite with late 19th century technology. And in less than years planes were used in World War I. Let me guess though, with all the technology we have today, the reason we don't have condos on Mars is because of the government, right? Not because space is fundamentally difficult, expensive, risky and empty?

Re:Can we cross-hype this with 3D printing? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 9 months ago | (#44290465)

We have the tech, and the ppl willing to go. Only the political will and a culture of artificial scarcity is stopping us.

Re:Can we cross-hype this with 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291413)

You sound like a Scientologist. And a person who uses "ppl" isn't going to space, sorry. The "tech" we have will get you to Low Earth Orbit to go play tree house with international test pilots in rubber suits. Get real. Space is dead.

Re:Can we cross-hype this with 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291869)

The fact we have the tech but don't use it actually supports your main premise that space is useless. We've had tech for sometime, with even early drafts of using Apollo based programs to travel to Mars and Venus. Saying we don't have tech to get past low Earth orbit is just as delusional as those that say there are big economic reasons to go into space. The issue isn't the tech, it is that there is no motivation to pay the enormous costs and/or risks needed to do it.

Elitists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44289795)

Frankly while this has the potential to be interesting as long as it is being fed to us by elitists who watch obscure operas and attend ivy-league schools I am not interested. This is a yet another example of the neutrality of science being corrupted and used as a tool to support the cultural agenda of the upper class.

- HG

Cue the wingnuts (1)

Trogre (513942) | about 9 months ago | (#44289801)

Some people might think this sort of discovery will vindicate claims made by dubious inventors like Keely. Be on the look out for anyone here mentioning "vibratory sympathy".

This has been working for years already (4, Funny)

thewils (463314) | about 9 months ago | (#44289859)

Just play any, for example, Justin Bieber tune and the resulting sound waves instantly move me out of the room. Most commercials on TV work the same way, unless I'm in control of the remote.

Not news.. (1)

houbou (1097327) | about 9 months ago | (#44290239)

Many sounds make things move, for example, the sound of my wife reminding me of chores usually gets me moving pretty swiftly.

Sonic Screwdriver (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290503)

Could this be the technology behind The Doctor's sonic screwdriver?

...or Paul Atreides (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290619)

"My own name is a killing word"

Muad'Dib!

Re:Sonic Screwdriver (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 9 months ago | (#44291011)

Could this be the technology behind The Doctor's sonic screwdriver?

Maybe prior to the reboot. But with the last few seasons, the Doctor's "sonic screwdriver" has been increasingly used as a generic device to magically resolve plot holes and compensate for poorly thought-out stories.

It used to turn screws and open locks. These days it does everything from neural force field generation to automatic computer hacking. Basically, whenever the bad guys provide a challenge that the Doctor can't solve, he just pulls the 'sonic' and ... zaaap ... problem solved!

Need a medical scanner, no problem, just pull the 'sonic'. Bad guy is projecting a super plasma/neural/whatever beam, no probs, just pull the 'sonic'. Computer system taking over the world? No probs, 'sonic' to the rescue.

They don't even bother calling it a "sonic screwdriver" anymore.

I just wish I had my own 'sonic' to deal with the incoming moderation black hole that may be coming this way.

Michio Kaku will bastardize this into his show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290543)

Let us examine how we can create a space ship like in sci-fi alien movies using the latest advancements in sound technology. Hello, I am Michio Kaku, I am a world-renowned theoretical astrophysicist and douchebag. I will take you down into a journey and see if this story is science fiction or science fact based from something that I personally believe.

Oh yes of course ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290599)

This explains the sonic screwdriver --but i think you knew that

I do this all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290609)

I yell at my kids "Get yer ass in gear!!" and they move like crazy!!!

known for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290649)

Rolling Stones have being using sound to levitate various female undergarments to great effect.

Animals Will Hate Us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291085)

Animals, and humans with slightly below and above normal sensory ranges, are going to really hate the future. IR lights are all over the place: leakage from normal lights, security cameras, larger touch displays, Kinect and similar device projections, etc... Blue light is already messing with human's sleep patterns (look into N24 and DSPS. The best treatments so far is dark therapy, aka reducing blues) I wonder what all the IR at night is doing to the animals that can see it.

We already take advantage of high pitch noises to annoy dogs and hide sounds from adults. The current problems are from cheap quality hardware that puts out high pitch whines, which many adults don't hear, so they ignore you when you complain about whatever TV, projector, or device they're using. Judging from what I heard as a kid, I have to assume animals are hearing constant noise from our devices. As we start expanding the use of sound for DIY radar and moving things, I have to wonder if we're going to start to drive them crazy and provoke more human attacks.

Assuming /. readers are opera fans... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291371)

And here I was worried the new owners wouldn't understand the readership when DICE bought /.

So this is science now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44291999)

Between this and the whole beatboxing story I saw earlier is science now coming down to either doing a study on things we all know about, or stating the obvious?

This sounds like someone watched an episode of big bang theory, liked the idea on the show and then decided to turn it into a research project.

This is an obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44292383)

...FUS DO RAH!!

Mages, er...'scientists' of Skyrim have known this for millennia.

Morndas, 15th of Sun's Height.

reminds me (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 9 months ago | (#44294621)

of when I use my "these aren't the droids you're looking for" sound/hand wave to levitate flies. They shoot straight off. Unfortunately, flies have a very short memory, and two seconds later they're back for more. Definitely too short to be stormtroopers, flies.

Move by sound? (1)

OneFangCat (2984839) | about 9 months ago | (#44296037)

Who cares? $800 dollar Honda Civics have been doing this with $2500 dollar strereo systems in my neighborhood for years!
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