Even if I could take off, I could never get past the tractor beam!

Finally our childhood dreams of a working tractor beam are coming to fruition! It’s called acoustic levitation and it actually uses highly concentrated sound waves to float small objects by essentially creating an acoustic force field.

The concept is nothing new, in fact we first covered it back in 2014 — but since then they’ve made leaps and bounds in their research. Back then they could just levitate dust. Now we’re moving onto small objects, like googly-eyes! It’s perceivable that with powerful enough speakers, larger objects will soon be harnessed…

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3D Acoustic Manipulation: Seemingly-Unreal Levitation Using Soundwaves

Wow. [Yoichi Ochiai], [Takayuki Hoshi] and [Jun Rekimoto] are researchers from the University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology, and they have just learned how to airbend.

Using a series of standing ultrasound waves, it is possible to suspend small particles at the sound pressure nodes. The acoustic axis of the ultrasound beam is parallel to gravity, which also allows the objects to be manipulated along the fixed axis by varying the phase or frequencies of the sound. By adding a second ultrasound beam perpendicular to the first it is possible to localize the pressure node, or focal point, and levitate small objects around a 2D plane.

In their demonstrations they float foam particles, a resistor, an LED, they show off the waves using a piece of dry ice, and even manage to float a small screw.

Sound like crazy talk? Just watch the video.

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DIY Ultrasonic acoustic levitation

[Mike] saw a few videos of ultrasonic acoustic levitation rigs put together by student researchers. Figuring it couldn’t be that hard to replicate, he set out and built his own using surplus parts and whatever was sitting around his parts drawer.

The build began with a huge ultrasonic transducer from an old ultrasonic cleaning tank [Mike] picked up on eBay for $20 £20. He didn’t pick up the standard driver board, as those don’t have a very clean output – something desperately needed if you’re setting up a standing wave. He did manage to put a simple supply together with a 555 timer, a MOSFET and a 12 V transformer connected backwards, though.

The test rig is pretty simple – just the transducer sitting on a table with an aluminum plate sitting above it on threaded rods. By adjusting the distance between the transducer to the aluminum plate, [Mike] managed to set up some standing waves he was able to suspend small Styrofoam balls in. It’s not quite precise enough to levitate small chunks of sodium and water, but it makes for an excellent science fair-type project.

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