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Levitating and Manipulating Objects With Sound

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the learn-how-to-juggle-without-using-your-hands dept.

Science 59

Nerval's Lobster writes "Researchers at the University of Tokyo have published a paper and video describing a technique that is explicitly not an anti-gravity system, and doesn't pretend to be, but looks very much like one. 'The essence of levitation is the countervailing of gravity,' according to the provocative opening of a paper published Dec. 14 on the Cornell University science-publishing site arXiv.org that describes a way to not only raise an object into the air, but maneuver it in three dimensions using only standing waves of ultrasound. Since the mid-1970s, researchers have been able to levitate small objects using focused beams of high-frequency sound that bounce off a flat surface and create a wave of pressure that pushes the object into the air. But they couldn't cause an object to float, and they couldn't move it around in any direction other than up or down. The University of Tokyo team led by Yoichi Ochiai built a system that could raise small particles, water droplets and even 'small creatures' off a flat surface and zoom them around within an open, cubical area about 21 inches on each side. The system uses four sets of phased arrays – speakers producing focused beams of sound at around 40kHz – to create waves of ultrasonic force on every side of the object rather than just one. The force produced by each of the four ultrasound sources can be changed – and the force on the object manipulated – using the same techniques utilized by older systems. Coordinating the frequencies and force of ultrasound arrays on four sides, however, creates a consistent focal point for the force from each. By keeping frequency changes in sync, the system creates a 'bubble' within which the force from all four sources is consistent no matter where within the target area the focus is directed."

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inb4... (0)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 10 months ago | (#45858493)

inb4 badbios + Maximum Overdrive + skynet + our new overlords mashup.

Re:inb4... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858593)

Well all the floaty thingies in Sci-Fi all make weird noises, so maybe they do use this technology.

Now, all the floaty thingies on SyFy, on the other hand, are powered by ghosts.

Re:inb4... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45859221)

So, this must be how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids in SG-1?

Not to be unimpressed, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858561)

I'm surprised we weren't able to do this before.

Re:Not to be unimpressed, but... (2)

Traze (1167415) | about 10 months ago | (#45858587)

- Said the guy that saw the first wheel in use.

Re:Not to be unimpressed, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858721)

"The force produced by each of the four ultrasound sources can be changed – and the force on the object manipulated – using the same techniques utilized by older systems. Coordinating the frequencies and force of ultrasound arrays on four sides, however, creates a consistent focal point for the force from each."

This isn't the first implementation of the "wheel" per your analogy, however.

Re:Not to be unimpressed, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858875)

Go ahead, some kind of meme-based response will earn you valuable "points" of status, lol. But the actual point remains.

Re:Not to be unimpressed, but... (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 10 months ago | (#45859051)

What point?

That several in-phase speakers create sound pressure?

That's not a new wheel. (that's my meme!)

Re:Not to be unimpressed, but... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45860669)

I have seen it before. just not sure where the reference is to prove it.

Youtube link (5, Informative)

tabooli (927310) | about 10 months ago | (#45858579)

A link to video of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odJxJRAxdFU [youtube.com]

Re:Youtube link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858681)

Thank you, it would be _cuh-raaazy_ for the article above to have a simple clickable link to a video so glad you did.

Re:Youtube link (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 10 months ago | (#45858781)

A slashdot article to a slashdot topic and it still to you to post a link to the damn video. And the editors are actually paid for this?

Re:Youtube link (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 10 months ago | (#45859683)

To be fair it wasn't TFA article either.

Re:Youtube link (2, Insightful)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 10 months ago | (#45858807)

A link to video of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odJxJRAxdFU [youtube.com]

Thanks! Hard to believe TFA and TFS both missed including it.

Re:Youtube link (1)

Pav (4298) | about 10 months ago | (#45870133)

That video eventually led me to this [youtube.com] . Hmmm... :)

Oh good. (1)

MattGWU (86623) | about 10 months ago | (#45858607)

Here comes the 'I told you so' from the 'Survivors of Atlantis used sound to build the pyramids' peanut gallery.

You know, like that couple from 'An Idiot Abroad' Egypt episode.

Been There, Done That (-1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | about 10 months ago | (#45858669)

Some one some where does this every few years and people things is something new. It's been done since the '70. There was even a demo of it at Huntsville Space and Rocket Center when I was a kid.

Call me when you build a landspeeder out of it or something useful.

Re:Been There, Done That (1)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 10 months ago | (#45858763)

Really? Since the 70s? Like TFS says?

Call us when you learn to read.

Re:Been There, Done That (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | about 10 months ago | (#45858887)

Actually that is where I read it. It clearly says since the mid '70s.

Re:Been There, Done That (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#45859087)

Actually that is where I read it. It clearly says since the mid '70s.

It also clearly says that, while the levitating is not new, the 3D movement is. Next time, try reading the entire summary before commenting.

Re:Been There, Done That (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 10 months ago | (#45859485)

Actually that is where I read it. It clearly says since the mid '70s.

It also clearly says that, while the levitating is not new, the 3D movement is. Next time, try reading the entire summary before commenting.

Yea, you know what gets me? We went from flight to landing people on celestial bodies in, what, 40 years of aeronautics? Given the same amount of time, 'acoustic levitation' researchers have gone from one speaker to... several... speakers...

WTF, science?

Re:Been There, Done That (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45859401)

Yep..old stoned hippy trick. Lay speaker on the floor with the woofer pointing up. Stretch a sheet over it, put some rice (or poppy seeds, flour, bbs, whatever) on the sheet. Put the Stones, The Dead, Led Zeppelin...etc on the turntable, crank up the sound....and oh! wow man!...

Big deal (1)

ntshma (864614) | about 10 months ago | (#45858697)

I levitate my kids with sound all the time. And the dog too.

Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (5, Insightful)

mbeckman (645148) | about 10 months ago | (#45858733)

"...describing a technique that is explicitly not an anti-gravity system, and doesn't pretend to be, but looks very much like one."

Um, it's basic physics. An actual force is moving an actual object, completely in compliance with standard Newtonian law. It no more "looks like" an anti-gravity system than does the Bernoulli effect when an airplane flies. The researchers demonstrate a novel use of ultrasound, but no more novel than superconductivity in a ceramic creating a magnetic field that can make a magnet hover in space. Using force. Just like you do when you hold something in the air with your hand.

F = MA. Nothing anti about it.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

jomama717 (779243) | about 10 months ago | (#45859335)

Pretty sure they were referring to the device/setup itself, not the effect.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

mbeckman (645148) | about 10 months ago | (#45859553)

But it's not an anti-gravity device, either. Anti-gravity means canceling, or protecting against the effect, of gravity, using some kind of shielding or field that acts outside the standard laws of force. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-gravity [wikipedia.org]

It does not refer to counteracting the force of gravity with some other force, such as electromagnetism or aerodynamic lift.

Anti-gravity is currently science fiction.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (2)

mbeckman (645148) | about 10 months ago | (#45859573)

I could just as accurately say "...describing a technique that is explicitly not an witch's broom system, and doesn't pretend to be, but looks very much like one."

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 10 months ago | (#45859897)

It does not refer to counteracting the force of gravity with some other force, such as electromagnetism or aerodynamic lift.

Or a table.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45861117)

Imagine using laser beans instead of sound waves. You would be able to accelerate an objet to ultimate speeds. Space travels!

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45863567)

This already exists, they are called optical tweezers.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

itsdapead (734413) | about 10 months ago | (#45861273)

It no more "looks like" an anti-gravity system than does the Bernoulli effect when an airplane flies.

I think the point is that the absence of any visible means of support, wings, rockets, big balloons full of gas, whacking great magnets or other contrivances popularly associated with making things hang in the air - along with the failure to look like a bird - might make some people think it was an anti-gravity device. I'm sure that the first people to see a an aeroplane fly would have shouted 'anti gravity!' if birds and balloons hadn't pre-dated H.G. Wells.

Presumably, though, an actual anti-gravity system would actually look like an object flying off into space because there was no longer any centripetal force

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45861377)

It no more "looks like" an anti-gravity system than does the Bernoulli effect when an airplane flies.

I made my science teacher cry one day. She kept insisting that the Bernoulli effect instead of angle of attack was what made airplanes fly. So I cannibalized my HO scale train set, and replaced my model airplane wings with barn doors. Then I flew it around in the park making faces at her, and asking her if she ever actually tests the bullshit they tell her to teach before brain damaging us. I mean, Look at the flat ceiling fan blades. Bernoulli? Bernoulli? Bueller?

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 10 months ago | (#45861739)

Well, yes and no. For most airplanes, it's a combination of the Bernoulli effect and the angle of attack. However, it is, as you demonstrated, perfectly possible to build a practical airplane that relies solely on the angle of attack--stunt planes commonly do this, having wings with symmetrical cross-sections, as they regularly fly upside-down.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 10 months ago | (#45861691)

If this "looks very much like an anti-gravity system", then so does a hovercraft.

Re:Anti Gravity Schmanti Gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45864285)

So? I'm sure that once we figure out anti-gravity (if we ever do) then even that will eventually be seen as just "basic physics". It's still pretty neat, IMO.

Starting up the learning curve, they are. (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 10 months ago | (#45858739)

For the top of the learning curve, see the Coral Castle [rense.com] .

This is news? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858853)

The same technology is already used by jet fighters to keep their windscreens clear. Audi is looking to bring this technology to their automobiles.

This is old news. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45858883)

McLaren uses this technology on their latest road car. http://www.gizmag.com/mclaren-ultrasonic-windshield-wiper-washer/30205/

Re:This is old news. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45861559)

The ultra sonic windshield on military aircraft predates the wiper, and the standing ultrasonic wave in one dimension and two dimensional movement is old news -- Previous devices worked by bouncing a ultra sonic wave off a plate. This device has four emitters and can manipulate an object in three dimensions. The windshield doesn't do that. Ultrasonic welding doesn't do that either. Neither do the 2D ultra sonic suspensions. If the wiper-less windshield is your standard then you should cite your own voice box instead -- able to make grunting noises in the air -- as the "old news".

Why? (1)

flightmaker (1844046) | about 10 months ago | (#45858941)

What is the point of this? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but the article gives no hints about what this might be used for. I'd like to know.

We all know what magnetic levitation is good for, but using loudspeakers to float a tiny object in a small box?

Re:Why? (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45859053)

This is sound science, I assure you.

Re:Why? (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 10 months ago | (#45859071)

Because Hollywood needs a new device holding the end-of-the-world vial precariously, while being driven at full speed on an almost empty battery with a timer counting down to 00:01.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45859271)

It's potentially good for anything you might need to manipulate small objects for, possibly allowing greater flexibility than robotic arms. Consider assembling small devices, or observing chemical reactions in freely-floating droplets without containers.

Re:Why? (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 10 months ago | (#45859481)

Probably to stop The Hulk [youtube.com] when the time is right? Dunno.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45859807)

When the first laser was created it too was thought to be "an answer looking for a question", so who knows where this might lead?

Manipulating objects with sound! (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 10 months ago | (#45859391)

Sounds like an older sister at work.

It's not antigravity--neither is a helium balloon (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 10 months ago | (#45859739)

We "countervail" the effect of gravity whenever we lift something. It might be said that we "countervail" the effect of gravity whenever we are not falling.

Words DO have meanings, and according to the American Heritage Dictionary, antigravity means "The hypothetical effect of reducing or canceling a gravitational field." H. G. Well's fictional "Cavorite" in "The First Men in the Moon" meets that definition precisely.

Ways of lifting and pushing things around without anything solid touching them are cool, especially if the levitation is more or less stable and under control, but hardly miraculous. The old trick of levitating a lightweight ball in the jet of air from a vacuum cleaner's exhaust falls in that category, and so for that matter does an air-bearing motor.

Re:It's not antigravity--neither is a helium ballo (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45861669)

I support anti-gravity as a matter of principal. Why should the social construct of space-time curvature be considered so damn attractive? Just because a space isn't born curvaceous doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered equally attractive if it wants to be. If you actually cared to take a Shaman's Studies course you'd see that Gravitational bodies are blind to their science-rendered privilege.

Doctor Who? (2)

hummassa (157160) | about 10 months ago | (#45859809)

Sonic screwdrivers! :D

Re:Doctor Who? (1)

tick-tock-atona (1145909) | about 10 months ago | (#45861081)

I can't believe this comment is so far down the list!

So... ultrasonic 3D displays soon? (1)

gshegosh (1587463) | about 10 months ago | (#45859839)

So... ultrasonic 3D displays soon?

Hover Board? (1)

GezusK (449864) | about 10 months ago | (#45860099)

Sounds like this could work..just place the phased arrays on the bottom of the board, and let them push against the ground :)

Re:Hover Board? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45862329)

I would gladly risk a busted hip to try that ride!

Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45860785)

Wife has been doing that for years.

I did it in 1987 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45861219)

In related news,... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45862001)

In a surprising twist they also successfully created the elusive "Brown Note"

Ultrasonic tweezers (1)

anomalous3 (1564795) | about 10 months ago | (#45876157)

This could be REALLY useful for assembling small, delicate systems in coordination with, say, 3D printing.
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