Acoustic levitation breakthrough after scientists created a self-correcting levitation device

floating bunny

It is not easy to make a levitation device that can work through disturbances. Image credit: Scientific Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn7614

The idea has been mooted before to use sound waves to levitate objects. Research confirmed this, but as you might expect, this requires a direct path of waves to the object – interrupt them by placing something in the path and things will go downhill fast. Now scientists have found a way to keep objects floating even when the path is interrupted by other objects, marking a major step forward in our sci-fi dreams of levitation.

Even better, you can see it all in a video created by the researchers.

Their results were published in the journal Science Advances.

Using 3D levitation, scientists can create amazing displays that can be touched and experienced without an augmented reality headset, but the problem of interference needs to be addressed before that’s possible. Interference from a physical object can disrupt the intricate field of acoustic waves needed to make an object float, and this may not mix well with the audience viewing the screen.

As such, these ultrasound levitation screens currently must exist in extremely controlled spaces, far from potential disruptors.

In an attempt to make levitation screens possible for public spaces such as arcades and shopping malls, researchers at University College London developed a system of multiple speakers that could adjust which ones turn on or off to account for fluctuations in the field. of levitation, self-correcting the float. object if something gets in the way.

“Until now, we have only been able to demonstrate acoustic levitation for virtual reality and holograms in controlled environments without any other nearby objects that can disrupt and scatter the sound waves. In this paper, we have demonstrated how we can float objects and even create digital content such as holograms in real-world settings by taking nearby objects into account in real time,” lead author Dr. Ryuji Hirayama said in a statement.

“It opens up the possibilities for fully immersive virtual reality experiences and interactive holograms.”

However, the research may not only have implications for making pretty displays. Precisely levitating objects could be a big step forward in 3D printing and manufacturing, with a floating object that can be acted upon from all sides. In this way, cross-contamination of materials can be prevented and precise applications of impression material can be applied.

“I am excited about how this work opens the door to mix many different materials in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Acoustic levitation has enormous potential in precision manufacturing and this work paves the way for seizing this opportunity,” said lead researcher Sri Subramanian.

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