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Science & Technology

Scientists develop real-life 'tractor beam'

October 28, 2015 | Comment icon 9 comments

Sound waves can be used to levitate and manipulate objects. Image Credit: GFDL Roger McLassus
A team of researchers has invented a device that can levitate objects in the air using sound waves.
It might not be quite as sophisticated as the tractor beams seen in Star Trek and Star Wars, but this one at least actually exists and could provide significant advantages in a wide range of industries.

Previous attempts to levitate objects in the air have typically been done using magnetic fields, but now scientists have come up with a new way to accomplish the same thing using sound waves.

"We've all experienced the force of sound - if you go to a rock concert, not only do you hear it, but you can sometimes feel your innards being moved," said study co-author Bruce Drinkwater.
The actual sound waves used in the tractor beam, which operate at between 140 and 150 decibels, would be deafening if it weren't for the fact that they are only operating at 40 kilohertz - far above the hearing range of humans but audible to some animals such as dogs and dolphins.

So far the technology is only able to levitate lightweight polystyrene balls but in the future it may be possible to use the same method to move larger objects or even to perform medical operations - that is if the team can figure out how to miniaturize the system to work on the micron scale.

It's rather unlikely however that the tractor beam will be moving spaceships around anytime soon.

Source: CBS News | Comments (9)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by seeder 6 years ago
Star Trek-style tractor beam becomes a reality: Device can lift and move small objects using sound 'holograms' Array of loudspeakers produce an acoustic 'hologram' to hold an object This allows small objects to be lifted, moved, rotated and fitted together Sadly it will not work in space as sound does not travel in a vacuum Instead it may find uses in the electronics industry or in delicate surgery http://www.dailymail...l#ixzz3ps0t2JkE
Comment icon #2 Posted by BeastieRunner 6 years ago
WOOO! Finally.
Comment icon #3 Posted by highdesert50 6 years ago
40kHz is at the threshold of a dog's hearing but will certainly annoy cats who have an octave greater hearing capability than dogs.
Comment icon #4 Posted by XenoFish 6 years ago
So where is my sonic screwdriver at?
Comment icon #5 Posted by Eternal.Quest.4.Truth 6 years ago
This isn't exactly new...acoustic levitation of water droplets has been around for quite some time now. Researchers were able to demonstrate fine-tune movement capabilities as well, by combining droplets of water and coffee grounds (essentially making coffee with sound!) Cool stuff
Comment icon #6 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
Scientific advances, from all disciplines, truly amaze me every day.
Comment icon #7 Posted by taniwha 6 years ago
Since when was a sound wave a beam?
Comment icon #8 Posted by ROGER 6 years ago
Since when was a sound wave a beam? My thought as well . Wont work in a vacuum . Limited weight usage .
Comment icon #9 Posted by taniwha 6 years ago
My thought as well . Wont work in a vacuum . Limited weight usage . Darn we will have to come up with another way to deflect killer asteroids!

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