Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

SNAPSHOT: Scientists Levitate Objects Using Sound

sound levitation
(Credit: Sergio Larripa, Asier Marzo and Bruce Drinkwater)


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

These tiny particles are being lifted with sound — no magic tricks required! Scientists have harnessed the physical force of sound waves before, but for the first time acoustic levitation has been successfully used on multiple objects independently.

The breakthrough was achieved by Asier Marzo Pérez of the University of Navarra in Spain and Bruce Drinkwater of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Their results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers developed a new algorithm that uses an array of sound emitters to create an acoustic field complex strong enough to trap multiple objects, like these one millimeter plastic beads.

They imagine the system being used to create mid-air displays using physical pixels, and “acoustic tweezers” that can be used for noninvasive surgery, noting “acoustic devices are 100,000 times more efficient than optical systems.”

The current experimental setup can simultaneously handle 25 tiny particles in 3-D space. It’s precise enough that the scientists were able to attach a thread to two of the spheres and “sew” it onto a piece of cloth using nothing but sound. They hope to be able to adapt the technique to use in water over the next year.


Find more great science imagery on our Instagram page.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 75%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In