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!
Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan
26.09.2017 | University at Buffalo
Stable magnetic bit of three atoms
21.09.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668
Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
26.09.2017 | Life Sciences
26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.09.2017 | Information Technology