Acoustic Tractor Beam Can Levitate Objects

Tuesday, 03 June 2014 - 11:09AM
Science of Sci-Fi
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 - 11:09AM

You've seen aliens, star fleets, and other sci-fi creations employ the help of tractor beams in works such as "Star Trek," "Star Wars," and "District 9." Now, researchers at the University of Dundee have created a real-life tractor beam using acoustic waves.


Scientists used energy from an ultrasound ray to pull a 1 cm triangular object from a stationary position towards the beam's source. By bouncing two ultrasound beams off of sonic energy at a precise power level and angle in relation to the object, researchers created a pressurized pocket behind the object, which forced it to advance towards the tractor beam's source. The chosen object was triangular in shape, the ideal shape for overcoming friction forces and keeping the object stable. 


Credit: Engineering Designer Edge


"This is the first time anyone has demonstrated a working acoustic tractor beam and the first time such a beam has been used to move anything bigger than microscopic targets," said Dr Christine Demore of the University of Dundee.


What's more, the Dundee team designed this beam parts from everyday technologies. A significant part of their device was from an ultrasound device that's been clinically approved for use in MRI-guided surgeries.


Although the technology to levitate a large object, such as a cow or human, is still many years away, researchers believe that the creation of this beam could be used to improve ultrasound-based medical treatment in the near future.

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Science of Sci-Fi

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