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article imageChinese Scientists Levitate Animals With Sound

By geozone     Mar 23, 2007 in Technology
Researchers at the Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi'an, China, had used ultrasound fields to levitate heavy globules of iridium and mercury.
They were interested in developing techniques for manufacturing everything from pharmaceuticals to alloys without using containers. This would circumvent situations where compounds were so corrosive they could not be held within a container or, at the very least, chemcially react with the containers and produce undesirable effects.
The researchers wanted to know what would happen if a living animal is placed in the acoustic field? Would it also undergo a stable uplifting experience?
Ultrasound waves are sound waves with frequencies higher in range than can be heard by the human ear. In acoustic levitation, the air pressure of ultrasound waves is used to keep an object afloat. Maximum strength of the levitating force is attained when the object to be levitated is about half the size as the wavelength of the ultrasound waves.
In their experiments the scientists used an ultrasound emitter that produced wavelengths about 20 millimeters (almost .8") in the sound pressure field. Using tweezers, they placed fish, ants, bees, tadpoles, ladybugs and bees up to a little over a third of an inch long in the field and kept them suspended in midair for up to 30 minutes.
The insects and fish were so perturbed by their experience of levitation that they tried to escape. The ant tried to walk away by thrashing its legs and the ladybug spread its wings to try to fly away. The fish and the tadpole attempted to swim away.
Through acoustic levitation, crystals can be produced that will be more free from flaws and avoid contamination from contact with containers that would otherwise be used in their production.
As for levitating living animals, it is theoretically possible to use the same principle to mimic the weightless effects of space travel on human bones and tissue. But for humans you would need a levitating machine a couple of stories high.
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