Automation News

Portable Acoustic Tractor Beam At Knock Down Prices

30 Jan , 2017  

A team of researchers from the University of Bristol has shown it is possible to create a simplified tractor beam using readily available parts at a total cost of less than £70.

Tractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and attract objects. The concept has been shown in science-fiction movies such as Star Wars or Star Trek and scientists have developed the theory using lasers. Recently, sound was used to create a working tractor beam that can move heavier objects made of different materials and that operates both in air or water without damaging the trapped objects.

In a paper published in Applied Physics Letters (APL), researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering have shown that it is possible to build a simplified tractor beam using only one electrical signal and a passive wave modulator.

The passive wave modulator is a type of acoustic lens that can alter the transmitted or reflected waves. The research team’s passive wave modulator can be made in various different ways, including a collection of tubes with different lengths or a carefully contoured surface. In both cases it can be 3D printed using an off–the-shelf printer.

Asier Marzo, Research Assistant and the lead author, said: “The technique can generate an acoustic tractor beam using only a single electrical signal, this will reduce the cost and complexity of tractor beams making them a more affordable technology for manipulating and analysing levitated samples. With our new research now everyone can have an acoustic tractor beam.”

Tractor beams using sounds waves open up lots of applications for contactless handling. For instance, samples of blood could be levitated for visual inspection without any obstruction; chemical compounds could be merged without being contaminated and kidney stones could be removed from the body without the need for incisions.

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