These Droplets Are Suspended by Sound


Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago are using acoustic levitation to study drugs.

Unless you travel into the vacuum of space, sound is all around you every day. But most of the time, you probably don't think of it as a physical presence. You hear sounds; you don't touch them. The only exceptions may be loud nightclubs, cars with window-rattling speakers and ultrasound machines that pulverize kidney stones. But even then, you most likely don't think of what you feel as sound itself, but as the vibrations that sound creates in other objects.

The idea that something so intangible can lift objects can seem unbelievable, but it's a real phenomenon. Acoustic levitation takes advantage of the properties of sound to cause solids, liquids and heavy gases to float. The process can take place in normal or reduced gravity. In other words, sound can levitate objects on Earth or in gas-filled enclosures in space.


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