You are here

Levitation as a Tool in Argonne Lab

March 19, 2013 - 4:54pm


Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals. Watch all Argonne videos on their video page.

Back in September, Argonne National Lab posted the YouTube video "Acoustic Levitation" featuring physicist Chris Benmore suspending droplets of liquid between two speakers. It almost immediately went viral garnering more than 41,000 Google hits for "acoustic levitation Argonne" and 900,000 YouTube views.

Six months later, the video is still circulating the Internet after mentions on Wired, Popular Science and even Mythbusters. Another quarter million people have beheld this technological wizardry, pushing the YouTube views past 1.2 million -- and it continues to rise.

The explanation: “When the top and bottom speakers are precisely aligned, they create two sets of sound waves that perfectly interfere with each other, setting up a phenomenon known as a standing wave," explains Benmore.

It’s not a magic trick and it’s not sleight of hand, scientists really are using levitation to improve the drug development process, eventually yielding more effective pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects.

They use this technique known as "containerless processing" to form pristine samples using a piece of equipment originally developed for NASA to stimulate microgravity conditions.

Argonne has the full explanation of this real-world levitation on their blog.