Making waves with sound waves

Making waves with sound waves


Until now, tractor beams had been thought of as a fictional concept in movies or cartoons. Key words: “until now”.  We have all been privy to the power of sound. Whether being at a loud music concert or having the bass turned up in your car, you can feel the vibrations even down to your core. Scientists over at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol, were inspired by this idea when they sought to create the world’s first tractor beam.

Sriram Subramanian, professor of informatics at the University of Sussex, explains what him and his team sought to create,

“In our device, we manipulate objects in mid-air and seemingly defy gravity […] we can individually control dozens of loudspeakers to tell us an optimal solution to generate an acoustic hologram that can manipulate multiple objects in real-time without contact.”

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The levitating machine is on a very miniature scale consisting of tiny speakers lined up on a 8×8 grid with the ability to control each speaker’s sonic movements, consuming a mere 9 watts of power. By manipulating a range of high-pitch and high-intensity sound waves in each speaker, they can move the targeted object up, down, side to side, and even rotate it without any actual physical contact.

The capabilities of this emitter extends beyond just beaming out sound waves, but rather utilizing each speaker to coincide with its neighbor and control the object with three different shapes of acoustic force fields. First is a “force field” type of shape that actually grips the object like invisible fingers. The second is an acoustic vortex, which traps the object at a core moving it like it was in an invisible tube. Finally, the third way it moves an object is manipulating sound waves to create a type of sonic cage, surrounding the object in all directions.

See some of the team explain their methods and view the ultrasonic levitation machine in action.

Source and Images: University of Sussex