Researchers turn levitating water drops into spinning, dancing stars

Researchers turn levitating water drops into spinning, dancing stars. (Screengrab/YouTube)

A team of engineers from Clemson University released a very cool video this week, showing how a water drop can be levitated and turned into different shapes, simply through the force of sound.

What's happening here is that the researchers are using ultrasonic sound waves, which push on the water droplet with enough force that it counters the pull of gravity. This pressure on the drop is why it's flattened out as it floats in mid-air. The shapes are created as the team changes the frequency of the field and it reaches the so-called 'harmonics' — when the frequency is two, three, four or more times higher than the rate of vibration of the drop itself.

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The video was just a bit of fun as the team tuned the system, but the demonstration holds a lot of promise. Other methods of levitating objects, such as using magnets, are only useful on specific types of materials. Pressure from sound waves can be used to levitate any type of material, though, as long as the pressure is strong enough to match the mass of the object.

Right now, it's only very tiny things, of course, but according to New Scientist, the team is looking into using it as a way to remove harmful particles from the air.

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