Jan. 31 - Japanese engineers have developed a new system of acoustic levitation, using sound waves from four audio speakers to suspend solid objects in three dimensional space. The system brings a new level of control to the manipulation of objects for experimentation without having to place them in containers. Rob Muir reports.
Yoichi Ochiai wears many hats, but today he's making particles of polystyrene float in mid-air. (Natsot) The University of Tokyo graduate student is part of a team who've developed an acoustic levitation device capable of lifting lightweight solids or liquids into mid-air, where they can be moved and manipluated either laterally or vertically. Four speakers, each of which contains even smaller speakers called transducers emit high frequency sound waves. Those waves, undetectible to human ears, are directed to a central point where they collide to produce a moveable ultrasonic space in which gravity is subverted. SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) GRADUATE STUDENT AND ONE OF THE INVENTORS OF ACOUSTIC MANIPULATION DEVICE, YOICHI OCHIAI, SAYING: "I am using around a thousand speakers and slamming them together to make one point. You can then put an object into that area and it's stabilized allowing you to move it." It may appear like a magic trick but the technology has a practical pupose. Ochiai says it could be used for the fine manipulation of electronic components or the development of new drugs or chemicals in an environment free of contamination. SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) GRADUATE STUDENT AND ONE OF THE INVENTORS OF ACOUSTIC MANIPULATION DEVICE, YOICHI OCHIAI, SAYING: "What you could do for instance in a pharmacy with drugs is control them, mix them or mix liquids." Ochiai says he hopes to see the design adapted for practical use within the next five years.