Dec 082010
 

Sonic screwdrivers may soon be more than props at Doctor Who conventions (Image: R. Steven Rainwater via wikipedia)

The sonic screwdriver has proven an indispensable piece of equipment for Doctor Who when battling Daleks, Cybermen and the Master.

The fictional tool is capable of opening just about any lock known to man – or alien – and can fix a damaged TARDIS in a matter of seconds. Now engineers at Bristol University say a real-life version of the sci-fi screwdriver could be created that would use sonic technology to open locks and undo screws … just don’t expect to see one under the Christmas tree this year.

According to Professor of Ultrasonics at Bristol University, Bruce Drinkwater, the secret lies in ultrasonic waves that can be used to apply forces to objects. Such technology is already being trialed in modern manufacturing to fix parts together and ultrasonic force fields are being developed for use in the medical field to separate diseased cells from healthy ones.

Professor Drinkwater and a team from The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair are now exploring whether super powerful versions of these sound beams can be used to create a real-life sonic screwdriver.

“Doctor Who is renowned for bending the rules of science. But technology has radically moved on since the Doc first stepped out of his TARDIS in the sixties. Whilst a fully functioning time machine may still be light years away, engineers are already experimenting with ultrasonic waves to move and manipulate small objects,” said Professor Drinkwater.

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