A newly developed method of levitating and manipulating tiny objects using sound waves could represent a major step forward for the technology.
Engineers in Japan have figured out how to pick up objects from reflective surfaces using acoustic levitation. Although they can’t yet do so reliably, the advance could help unlock the full potential of the manipulation of physical objects using nothing but sound.
Biomedical engineering, nanotechnology and the development of pharmaceuticals are some of the fields in which manipulating objects without touching them is potentially really useful. We can already do this with a technology called optical tweezers, which use lasers to generate sufficient radiation pressure to levitate and move extremely small particles.
Acoustic tweezers – where pressure generated with sound waves can be used to move particles – have the potential to be an even more powerful tool. They could be used to manipulate a wider range of materials, and at larger sizes – up to the millimeter scale.