Walking on Sound

photo credit: _Max-B via photopin cc
photo credit: _Max-B via photopin cc

Anti-gravity devices, enabling us or our vehicles to float effortlessly through the air, have been an attractive image of futuristic world views for decades, but cancelling out gravity’s effects is no mean feat. Unless you create high frequency sound waves, and use them to levitate and move objects through the air.

Dimos Poulikakos and his team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich used a system of computer-controlled resonators to produce sound waves that not only created a standing wave of sound to levitate small particles, but also varied the shape of the standing wave to move the particles through the air.

Although the team worked with small objects, such as drops of water and granules of coffee, the system can theoretically be used to move large items too. Potential applications include the transportation of sterile items without danger of contamination through touch and experiments in microgravity without the cost and effort of going into space.

At the moment the ability to transport people is a long way off, but perhaps one day we really will be able to float through the air, with the power of sound.

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