A team of researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil has developed a new levitation device that can hover a tiny object with more control than any instrument that has come before.
Featured on this week’s cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, the device can levitate polystyrene particles by reflecting sound waves from a source above off a concave reflector below. Changing the orientation of the reflector allow the hovering particle to be moved around.
Other researchers have built similar devices in the past, but they always required a precise setup where the sound source and reflector were at fixed “resonant” distances. This made controlling the levitating objects difficult. The new device shows that it is possible to build a “non-resonant” levitation device — one that does not require a fixed separation distance between the source and the reflector.
This breakthrough may be an important step toward building larger devices that could be used to handle hazardous materials, chemically-sensitive materials like pharmaceuticals — or to provide technology for a new generation of high-tech, gee-whiz children’s toys.
“Modern factories have hundreds of robots to move parts from one place to another,” said Marco Aurélio Brizzotti Andrade, who led the research. “Why not try to do the same without touching the parts to be transported?”
The device Andrade and his colleagues devised was only able to levitate light particles (they tested it polystyrene blobs about 3 mm across). “The next step is to improve the device to levitate heavier materials,” he said.
Read more: Acoustic Levitation Made Simple
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