A team of researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Sussex in collaboration with Ultrahaptics have built the world's first sonic tractor beam that can lift and move objects using sound waves.
Tractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and lift objects. The concept has been used by science-fiction writers, and programmes like Star Trek, but has since come to fascinate scientists and engineers. Researchers have now built a working tractor beam that uses high-amplitude sound waves to generate an acoustic hologram which can pick up and move small objects.
The research team has created three-dimensional acoustic fields with shapes such as fingers, twisters and cages. These acoustic fields are the first acoustic holograms that can exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them.
Image courtesy of Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015
The technique, published in Nature Communications, could be developed for a wide range of applications, for example a sonic production line could transport delicate objects and assemble them, all without physical contact. On the other hand, a miniature version could grip and transport drug capsules or microsurgical instruments through living tissue.
Asier Marzo, PhD student and the lead author, said: "It was an incredible experience the first time we saw the object held in place by the tractor beam. All my hard work has paid off, it's brilliant."
Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics in the University of Bristol's Department of Mechanical Engineering, added: "We all know that sound waves can have a physical effect. But here we have managed to control the sound to a degree never previously achieved."
Sriram Subramanian, Professor of Informatics at the University of Sussex and co-founder of Ultrahaptics, explained: "In our device we manipulate objects in mid-air and seemingly defy gravity. Here we 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."
The researchers used an array of 64 miniature loudspeakers to create high-pitch and high-intensity sound waves. The tractor beam works by surrounding the object with high-intensity sound and this creates a force field that keeps the objects in place. By carefully controlling the output of the loudspeakers the object can be either held in place, moved or rotated.
The team have shown that three different shapes of acoustic force fields work as tractor beams. The first is an acoustic force field that resembles a pair of fingers or tweezers. The second is an acoustic vortex, the objects becoming stuck-in and then trapped at the core and the third is best described as a high-intensity cage that surrounds the objects and holds them in place from all directions.
Previous work on acoustic studies had to surround the object with loudspeakers, which limits the extent of movement and restricts many applications. Last year, the University of Dundee presented the concept of a tractor beam but no objects were held in the ray.
Paper: Holographic acoustic elements for manipulation of levitated objects by Asier Marzo, Sue Ann Seah, Bruce W. Drinkwater, Deepak Ranjan Sahoo, Benjamin Long and Sriram Subramanian is published in Nature Communications.
Notes to editors:
Images and a video are available for download from the following URLs:
Caption: The research team have created three-dimensional acoustic fields with shapes such as fingers, twisters and cages. These acoustic fields are the first acoustic holograms that can exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them.
Credit: Image courtesy of Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015
Caption: Holograms are tridimensional light-fields that can be projected from a two-dimensional surface. The researchers have created acoustic holograms with shapes such as tweezers, twisters and cages that exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them.
Credit: Image courtesy of Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015
Caption: Acoustic holograms are projected from a flat surface and contrary to traditional holograms, they exert considerable forces on the objects contained within. The acoustic holograms can be updated in real-time to translate, rotate and combine levitated particles enabling unprecedented contactless manipulators such as tractor beams.
Credit: Video courtesy of Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015
Twitter: @LabInteract, @sonic_bruce
Sriram Subramanian was formerly Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol and is now Professor of Informatics at the University of Sussex.
Ultrahaptics, based in Bristol, UK, is the world's leading touchless haptics company. Their unique technology brings the sense of touch to touchless interfaces, creating the magical experience of feeling without touching.
For more information visit: http://www.
Professor Bruce Drinkwater, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bristol, tel: +44 (117) 331 5914, mobile: +44 7980 846822 or email: B.Drinkwater@bristol.ac.uk
Professor Sri Subramanian, University of Sussex, mobile: +44 7942 616920 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Macdonald Tait, Ultrahaptics, tel: +44 (0)7414 811 089 or email: email@example.com
Issued by the Public Relations Office, Communications & Marketing Services, University of Bristol, tel +44 (0)117 331 7276, mobile 07747 768805. Contact: Joanne Fryer. and Communications and External Affairs, University of Sussex, tel +44 (0)1273 877437. Contact: Jacqui Bealing.
Jacqui Bealing | EurekAlert!
New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans
16.01.2017 | University of Southern California
Fraunhofer FIT announces CloudTeams collaborative software development platform – join it for free
10.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction