Star TrekStyle Tractor Beam Could Levitate Humans

first_imgStay on target Stranger than science fiction: University of Bristol researchers engineered a powerful acoustic tractor beam that could pave the way for levitating humans.The real-life technology—often depicted in Hollywood narratives as a literal beacon of light that hoists things from the ground into a floating spaceship—can attract one object to another from a distance.(Think Pixar short Lifted (my favorite representation), in which young alien Stu royally botches his abduction exam in the most heartwarming and hilarious way.)Despite previously assumed limitations, acoustic tractor beams can actually stably trap substances larger than the wavelength of sound.The Bristol team’s new approach, as described by a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, uses rapidly fluctuating acoustic vortices—basically, a tornado of sound.Whereas earlier attempts saw objects spinning uncontrollably, researchers recently discovered that the rate of rotation can be controlled by rapidly changing the twisting direction of vortices.Operating ultrasonic waves at a pitch of 40kHz (close to the frequency at which bats hear), the engineers held a tiny polystyrene ball—smaller than 1 inch in diameter—in the tractor beam.The sphere, which measures more than two acoustic wavelengths, marks the largest-yet object trapped in a tractor beam.“Acoustic researchers have been frustrated by the size limit for years, so it’s satisfying to find a way to overcome it,” lead paper author Asier Marzo, of the University of Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said in a statement. “I think it opens the door to many new applications.”Like the manipulation of drug capsules or micro-surgical implements within the human body. Or container-less transportation of delicate larger samples. “Acoustic tractor beams have huge potential in many applications,” Bruce Drinkwater, professor of ultrasonics, said. “I’m particularly excited by the idea of contactless production lines where delicate objects are assembled without touching them.”This could, according to the University, even be a step toward levitating humans. One day. Maybe.“In the future, with more acoustic power it will be possible to hold even larger objects,” senior research associate Mihai Caleap, who developed the simulations, explained. “This was only thought to be possible using lower pitches, making the experiment audible and dangerous for humans.”Learn to make your own acoustic tractor beam (for less than $75!) via Marzo’s online instructions. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.center_img Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend last_img

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