Researchers from the University of Bristol are taking us into the future with a new discovery that could pave the way for human levitation. The powerful new technology uses tractor beams of sound to levitate liquids or even large objects – like a human beings – in mid-air. It’s like something straight out of a science fiction movie.
Up until now, acoustic tractor beams could only lift tiny objects – anything larger than the wavelength would become rapidly unstable. But this new technology utilizes acoustic vortices that shift rapidly to hold and move objects. It’s kind of like trapping an object in a powerful tornado of sound, with a silent eye and loud sound on the exterior. By quickly changing the rate of rotation, scientists can stabilize the tractor beam and even manipulate it to hold larger objects.
Besides being exciting in terms of sci-fi fun, the technology could also have some immediate useful applications like moving surgical instruments or drug capsules in the body. “In the future, with more acoustic power it will be possible to hold even larger objects. This was only thought to be possible using lower pitches making the experiment audible and dangerous for humans,” said Senior Research Associate Dr. Mihai Caleap.
Images via Physical Review Letters