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Single Bubble Sonoluminescence

This phenomena occurs when a single bubble encounters a non linear dynamic, namely, rapid
compression of bubble preceded by an expansion which takes place slowly. When the bubble is
compressed rapidly, it can get so hot that it emits a flash of light

Figure 2: Sonoluminescence - mechanism

1. kR << 1, i.e., the wavelength of the sound field is much larger than the dimension of the
2. incompressible object (used by King, although Gorkov has derived results that permits finite
compressibility of the sphere)
Sphere is suspended when sum of the forces acting on it equals zero, i.e., when force due to gravity
balances the upward levitation force.
As a result, the object is attracted to regions of minimum potential energy (pressure nodes).
Antinodes are regions experiencing high pressures.
To ensure the generation of a standing wave, the transducer must be placed at a certain distance
from the reflector and a particular frequency should be used to get satisfactory results. This distance
should be a multiple of half the wavelength of the sound produced to make sure the nodes and
antinodes are stable.
Secondly, the direction of the force exerted by the radiated pressure due to the sound waves must be
parallel to the direction of gravity.
Since the stable areas should be large enough and able to support the object to be levitated, the
object's dimensions should lie between one third and one half of the wavelength. It is important to
note that the higher the frequency, the smaller the dimensions of the object one is trying to
levitate (since wavelength and frequency are inversely proportional to each other)
The materials of the object is important too, since the density along with the dimensions will give
the value for its mass and determine the gravitational force and consequently whether the upward
force produced by the pressure radiation is suitable.
Another characteristic important when talking about material properties is the Bond number which
is important when dealing with drops of fluid. It characterizes the surface tension and size of the
liquid relative to the fluid surrounding it. The lower the Bond number, the greater the chances that
the drop will burst.
Finally, to achieve such high pressures (that can cancel the gravitational force), linear waves are
insufficient. Therefore, non-linear waves play an important role in acoustic levitation. This is easily
one of the reasons why the study of acoustic levitation is challenging. Nonlinear acoustics is a field
that deals with physical phenomena difficult to comprehend. Based on experimental observations,
heavy spheres incline to velocity antinodes, light particles are closer to the nodes.
Other effects on levitation force[edit]
Temperature, pressure, fluid medium characteristics (density, particle velocity) affect the levitation
force. It is important to remember that the medium changes as conditions change. The fluid medium
consists of reactants and products that change with reaction rate.
Thus, consequently the levitation force is affected. To compensate for medium changes, resonance
tracking system can be employed (which helps to maintain stable levitation of the particle under
Design considerations
The sphere or particle under study should experience a lateral force which will act as a positioning
force (along with the more obvious vertical levitating force) Rotation of the sphere about its axis
will ensure uniform heating and stability.
Using non-spherical particles
When levitating non-spherical particles, the largest cross section of the object will end up aligning
itself perpendicular to the axis of the standing wave.
Traveling vs. Standing waves
King discovered that the radiation pressure exerted by a standing wave is much larger than the
pressure exerted by a traveling wave (which has the same amplitude as the standing wave)
This is because the pressure exerted by a standing wave is due to the interference between the
incident and scattered waves. Pressure exerted by a traveling wave is due to contributions from
scattered field only.
Acoustic levitation


In this seminar one dimensional acoustic levitation is presented with two distinct
approaches, near-field levitation and standing wave levitation. Description of latter is
restricted for enough small (solid and liquid) particles. For analytical description for
standing wave levitation approach, known as King‘s, is used, later acoustic potential
is presented and viscous corrections are described. In last section, description of
acoustic levitation is extended to its applications.


1 Introduction 2
2 Near-field levitation 2
3 Standing wave levitation 4
3.1 Standing wave levitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
3.2 Transverse radiation force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
3.3 Secondary radiation force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
3.4 Acoustic potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

4 Viscous corrections 10

5 Applications of acoustic levitation 10

6 Conclusion 11

7 References 11
1 Introduction
Levitation is a process in which an upward force(s) counteracts downward
gravitational force of an object so that there is no physical contact between levitated
object and ground and object is found in a stable position. Levitation can be
accomplished with five different techniques ([1]), according to different levitating
forces: magnetic, electric, optical, aerodynamic and acoustic.
In this seminar (one dimensional) acoustic levitation will be presented more
closely. Acous-tic waves are mechanical waves that can only propagate through
physical medium. These waves scatter on obstacles and transfer some of their
momentum on obstacles, creating force. This force can also be seen as consequence
of radiation pressure and is relatively small but it can become su fficiently large to
overcome gravity force. Usually waves with high intensities and frequencies in
ultrasonic range of spectrum are used (above 20 kHz) so this technique of levitation is
soundless for human ears.
Advantage of acoustic levitation compared to other mentioned techniques is the
fact that it has no material limitation. Electric levitation for example is most
achievable with conductive materials.

Acoustic levitation employs sound radiation to lift objects. It mostly deals with
non-linear phenomenon (since the resulting force on the object is due to non-linear
properties of wave motion).
Motivation behind developing an acoustic reactor
The force generated due to acoustic radiation pressure is generally much larger
than force of electromagnetic radiation pressure which makes the study of these
forces interesting and noteworthy.
Secondly, this phenomenon will allow successful container less experiments. The
importance of such studies is illustrated by the following:
Kinetic studies can be classified into two categories:
1. The first includes material fixed to the walls.
2. The second includes the flow of particles into and from an apparatus
The drawback of existing methods is that only one type of particle can be used.
Consequently, the behaviour reported isn't accurate (since the walls in the first case
and the surrounding particles in the second case can have an effect on the behaviour
under study).
This elimination of walls can provide further insight by discarding supports in
addition to reducing the interactions with other particles (e.g.: by handling a single
One way to achieve this airborne application is by employing a fascinating
application of acoustics, namely acoustic levitation which involves levitating objects
using sound radiation.
Applications of this phenomenon and the corresponding technology can include
material processing in space without using any containers. This may be particularly
useful in the study of materials that are extremely corrosive.
Moreover, sonoluminescence and acoustic cavitation encounter this acoustic force.
Other applications can include measuring densities and analyzing fluid dynamics
in which surface tension plays an important role. Lastly, acoustic positioning is
another potential application.
• Discovery News lists an interesting application of acoustic levitation.
• Acoustic Levitation on Mars illustrates an adventurous application of this
Components of an Acoustic Reactor
Figure 1: Schematic of the set up
A simple acoustic reactor requires a:
• A transducer to generate the desired sound waves. These transducers usually
generate intense sounds, with sound pressure levels greater than 150 dB.
• A reflector
In order to focus the sound, transducers and reflectors in general have concave
surfaces. The reflection of longitudinal sound waves off the reflector leads to
interference between the compressions and rarefactions. Perfect interference will
result in a standing acoustic wave, i.e., a wave that will appear to have the same
position at any time.
With this simple arrangement of transducer and reflector, one can achieve stable
levitation but cannot steer the sample. To do so, Weber, Rey, Neuefeind and Benmore
have described an arrangement in their paper that describes the use of two
transducers. These transducers adjust the location by altering the acoustic phases
(which is carried out electronically).
Near-field levitation
Near-field levitation (also known as squeeze film acoustic levitation) is one of two
different configurations of acoustic levitation. It can be observed by placing object
with planar surface just above a sound radiator (or transducer - converter of electric
energy to sound vibrations). Between radiator and object is a thin layer of air. Planar
object acts as an obstacle from which sound waves with high intensity emitted from
radiator are reflected. Distance between sound radiator and object is much smaller
compared with wavelength of sound λ (several µm compared with λ ∼ several mm).
As a consequence standing waves cannot be created.
For simple description of near-field levitation we use a model which assumes ideal
gas and conservation of mass of air trapped in the gap ([1], [2]). Regarding these
conditions we can use adiabatic assumption for air layer pV κ = const. Since we are
considered in only one dimensional

Figure 1: Sheme of near-field levitation sistem. [2]

levitation, we can write
phκ = const.

where h denotes height on z-axis on which levitated object is found (vertical size of
the gap). Air in the gap is squeezed and released because of sound waves. Radiator
oscillates while object does not. This oscillation causes also size of the gap h to

h = h0 + δh sinωt

where δh stands for amplitude of oscillations. As it can be seen on the graph

p(h) (Fig. 2) harmonic oscillations of h create
non-harmonic oscillations of pressure
within the gap due non-linearity of
adiabatic relation. Corresponding
pressure to position h0 is p0 but while h0 is
also average value of oscillatory h, p0 is not
average value of oscillatory pressure.
Average pressure in the gap hpi exceeds
surrounding pressure p0 due nonlinearity of
adiabatic relation. This difference between
pressure in the gap and the pressure around our
system is what creates levitation.
Figure 2: Graph p(h). Under graph oscillations of height h are shown which are
responsible for pressure oscillations. Harmonic oscillation of h creates non-harmonic
oscillation of pressure p. Average pressure of this oscillation exceeds ambient
pressure. In air value for κ is 1.4). [2]
Analytical solution (simplified to linear equation using h0 << λ; [2]) for pressure inside the
gap can be written as
1+κ (δh)2
p = 4 ρ0c2 h2 (3)
Pressure is expressed with ratio of specific heats κ = cp , density of a surrounding
medium ρ0,
speed of sound in that medium c, amplitude of oscillations of vertical size of the gap
and its

equilibrium position. Experimentally it was shown that force, calculated from this
expression, is overestimated for about 25% ([2]).

Distinguishing between force in near-field and standing wave levitation system is due
to different boundary conditions. In general force acting on an object is expressed as

F= p~ndS. (4)

To express acoustic force in case of near-field levitation configuration, for pressure p

expression (3) is to be taken. Since the fact that except ratio between amplitude of
oscillations of distance h and equilibrium position, terms in equation (3) describe
medium it is expected for force proportionality F ∝ h−2 to hold. Experimentally this
proportionality can be proven by determining force dependence of a distance where
object is found ([1]). Result is shown in Fig. 3.
Figure 3: Graph F (h). In experiment ([2]) lifted object was aluminium plate at
frequency 19 kHz. Distance h was decreasing and when it reached 0.5 µm amplitude
of levitating force was observed to increase. This amplitude, write before contact of
object with sound radiator, was measured to be 100 N. Amplitude of force at a
distance of λ2 (first additional peak) was 1 N. [1]

From graph F (h) we can see additional peaks of force at intervals of distances of half
wavelength of sound. This means that object can also be levitated at the distances
corresponding to half wavelength of sound. At this condition, between radiator and
object standing wave is created. Standing wave holds object at certain distance
because of constant transfer of momentum on it. As also can be seen in Fig. 3
additional peaks present forces with much smaller amplitudes as in region very close
to sound radiator. In fact in region h → 0 amplitude of force is not restricted showing
us that there is no limit of how much mass we can lift using near-field levitation.
Providing distance between radiator and planar object is small enough.
With this kind of setup near-film levitation is in some points similar to standing
wave limitation (section 3). Between sound source and object at certain distances
standing wave is created. However it is still the object that acts as a reflector and
levitation is not restricted to object with size smaller than wavelength.

3 Standing wave levitation

3.1 Standing wave levitation

This configuration can be used to levitate objects (particles) with an e ffective
diameter less than the wavelength of sound. In this sheme ([1], [2]) of layout as
before is a sound source
and above a solid reflector is mounted which usually has concave shape to help focus
acoustic waves. Waves are reflected from reflector and interference emerges. As a
result in space between radiator and reflector a standing wave is created with so
called nodes and anti-nodes (troughs and crests).
Levitating force can be considered as consequence of acoustic radiation pressure.
Acoustic radiation pressure is difference between (average) pressure at sphere‘s
surface p and hydrostatic pressure p0 that would have exist if fluid is at rest. For
analytic description we can use a model which assumes enough small, incompressible
and rigid sphere levitating in presence of acoustic standing wave (King‘s approach;
model which was used to derive first analytical description; [3], also [1], [2]). For
fluid we assume that effect of viscosity can be neglected and that barotropic
relation p = f(ρ) holds. Because of our assumptions we can use Euler‘s
∂~v + (~v )~v = rp . (5)
∂t ·r − ρ
Assuming also that flow of fluid is irrotational we can express vector of velocity with
gradient of scalar function Φ (named velocity potential): ~v = rΦ. Of course
continuity equation also
∂t + r · (ρ~v) = 0 (6)
which can also be written as
1 dρ
ρ dt = r Φ. (7)
For a medium (like air) in which from barotropic relation follows dρ = f0(ρ) = const.
= c2 differential equation for Φ exact to first order leads to wave equation for Φ:
1 ∂2Φ
2 2
r2Φ = c ∂t . (8)
Equation (5) can be written as
rΦ˙ = r ρ (9)
from which follows non-stationary Bernoulli equation ([4])
dp v2
Φ˙ − ρ = 2 . (10)
R dp
For further derivation of integral ρ we expand barotropic relation into series in
terms of factor s = ρ−ρ0 :

2 2
p = f(ρ0 + sρ0) ≈ f(ρ0) + sρ0f0(ρ0) + 2 s ρ0 f00(ρ0) + ... (11)
−1 − 1
From this expansion we can express dp and combine it with expression ρ ≈ ρ (1 0
−s+s2 −...). Eliminating factor s and regarding f(ρ0) = p0, equation for pressure
variation in the medium
can be expressed: ∂
∂Φ ρ Φ 2 1

2 2
δp = p − p0 = ρ0 ∂t + 2c ∂t − 2 ρ0v . (12)

To get solutions for pressure variation we need to calculate velocity potential from
wave equation (8). For that we need to take into consideration boundary conditions
which of course sharply depend on geometry of the levitated object.
Solution for Φ from (8) will be oscillatory. For small spheres equality Φ = |Φ| cos
kh cos ωt can be shown (h denotes position of levitated particle in z-direction). From
definition of velocity

potential and Bernoulli equation (10) it follows that pressure variation will also
oscillate along distance between sound radiator and levitated object.
It can be shown that force on enough small levitated particle created in travelling
waves is smaller for few orders of magnitude ([3]; F ∝ rs6) than force created in
stationary waves. This is why effect of travelling waves can be neglected.

Acoustic force on a small, rigid sphere (model described before) in a standing wave is
derived to be ([3])
F = 8πrs2(krs) E¯ sin(2kh) f ρs ! . (13)

It is expressed with wave number k, radius of sphere rs, mean total energy-density of
sound in
¯ 1 2

a medium E = 2 ρ0k |Φ|, density of sphere ρs and so called relative

density factor f which in
case for stationary wave is defined as

2 0
ρ0 1 + (1 ρ )
3 − s

f 0 . (14)
ρ !
s = 2 +ρ
As already mentioned, levitated particle is assumed to be enough small (krs << 1). As
can also be seen on Fig. 4 force on a particle oscillates with two times higher
frequency according to oscillation of velocity or pressure. Levitated particle will tend
to a region with minimal pressure (pressure nodes). Size of amplitudes of acoustic
force in standing wave levitation system is ∼ 10−9N.
Under microgravity conditions particle will therefore be found exactly in pressure
nodes. In terrestrial environment also gravity force is to be taken into account.
Gravity tends to drag object downward while acoustic force upward (into nearest
pressure node). In this condition particle is found to be slightly below pressure node.
This description is not limited only for solid particles but it also holds for liquid
particles (droplets) which strongly deform in the presence of levitating force.
Figure 4: Distribution of sound pressure, acoustic velocity and force on levitated
sphere combined with scheme of setup for standing wave levitation. Particle can be
stabilized in small interval around pressure node otherwise it is dragged to another
nearest pressure node. Distance between radiator and reflector has to be multiple of
half wavelength in order to create standing wave. [2]

3.2 Transverse radiation force

So far only one of acoustic forces (also called primary radiation force or axial force)
has been mentioned. As figure 4 shows points of pressure nodes are also points of
maximum velocity of flow of medium. Levitated (and stabilized) particle acts as an
obstacle so medium flows around

particle. Effect of particle on behaviour of flow is restricted to area near particle so

velocity of flow around particle decreases away from particle (or z-axis). According
to Bernoulli equation (10), this creates additional pressure which increases away from
z-axis ([1], [5]). This pressure tends to stabilize particle‘s position in transverse
direction (x-y plane) similar as primary force stabilizes particle in z-direction. This
pressure acts as a force in transverse direction regarding primary force. In case of
liquid sample is transverse force also responsible for lateral deformation of it.
Amplitude of transverse radiation force is two orders smaller than amplitude of
primary radiation force and it has observable effect only once particle reaches
pressure nodes, since amplitude of primary force is then zero and transverse force
becomes dominant.
Taking into account transverse (also called radial force Fr) acoustic force it is not
necessary any more, radiator and reflector to be perpendicular to the z-axis ([5]). If
the whole system is tilted for a certain angle (Fig. 5a), the particle is found levitated
as long gravity force does not overcome sum of primary and transverse force.
It was also demonstrated that radiator and reflector do not have to be aligned.
Setup with angle between axis of radiator and axis of reflector was also tested.
Levitation was successfully observed with angles 0 ≤ α ≤ 60 ◦ (figure 5b).
(a) (b)

Figure 5: (a) Because transverse (radial Fr) force contribute to the acoustic force (Fa)
levitation does not need to be operated only in an upright position. (b) Levitation can
be operated also when axis of radiator does not coincide with axis of reflector. Their
axes can be turned for certain angle. [1]

3.3 Secondary radiation force

Secondary radiation force (also known as Bjerknes forces when acting between gas
bubbles or König forces between solid particles) emerges when instead of only one
particle we levitate multiple particles in suspension (neglecting other forces like
Coulomb interaction). This is interparticle force and its amplitude is also two orders
less than primary radiation force. It can be attractive or repulsive and it depends of
distance between particles.
Acoustic waves emitted from radiator will scatter on each particle. If two particles
in sound field are at certain distance d >> Rs acoustic waves scatter in all regions
around particles homogeneously. In region between particles each of them feels
scattered wave from other particle into his direction. Scattered wave has momentum
which is transferred on particles pushing particle away from its neighbour or with
other words creates repulsive force. In case when two particles are close to each other
(d ≈ Rs) majority of acoustic waves will scatter in directions away from particles
pushing particles closer to each other. Particles trapped in pressure nodes are very
close together because of primary acoustic force. This is why it comes to aggregation
of particles once they are positioned in pressure nodes.

Figure 6: (a) When acoustic field is not present particles in suspension (mixture of
fluid and insoluble particles) are free and spreaded across volume of a chamber. (b) In
presence of standing wave primary acoustic force (FP RF ) drags particles toward
pressure nodes. (c) Secondary acoustic force (FSEC ) leads to further aggregation of
particles. [5]
3.4 Acoustic potential
Another different approach to derive force on small particle in standing wave field is
with acoustic potential. Historically (first in [3]), expressions for acoustic forces were
first derived with approach used in section 3.1. For easier and faster approach
acoustic potential was defined in such way that acoustic force is obtained from
F = −rU. (15)
Expression for acoustic force, like (13), is of course the same, regardless which
approach we use. Acoustic potential is often expressed ([6]) in form
U = 2πrs "f1 3hρ0ci2 − f2 2 hv0 i# (16)
p0 2 ρ0 2

with hv02i and hp20i being time-averaged square of velocity and pressure of the
acoustic wave, both considered in the point where levitated object is found. f1
(monopole coefficient) and f2 (dipole coefficient)

are numerical factors given by
f1 = 1 −
ρ c2

2(ρ0 − ρs)
f2 = (18)
2ρs + ρ0
where again index 0 presents surroundings (medium) and index s particle (sphere).
Expression (16) can be presented with maybe more intuitive form
U = Vs"f1 hEpoti − 2f2 hEkini# (19)
1 2 0 2
with Vs as volume of a sphere and 2ρ2 0 hv0 i being averaged
hEpoti = c hp0i and hEkini = 2 po-
tential (of compressed medium) and kinetic (due motion of medium) energy density
of acoustic wave.
Particle‘s equilibrium points are at Fi = ∂U = 0. Acoustic force according to (15)
on geometry of a chamber in which experiment is performed. Several results can be
found in [6]. With definition of acoustic potential (15) we can see that particle‘s
tendency to Figure 7: On left is graph of distribution of force and pressure in standing
wave according to vertical size of space between radiator and reflector h for one and
two nodes (n = 1, 2). On right side is corresponding acoustic potential. Equilibrium
points for particle levitation is in points where acoustic potential reaches minimum.
[5]minima force can be seen as tendency to potential minima. Of course potential and
pressure minima coincide (figure 7).

From numerical factors f1 and f2 another fact can be noticed ([5], [7]). In case both
these factors are positive, minimal value of potential is in points where hv02 i is
maximal and hp20i is minimal. But with different conditions (when ρ0 >> ρs) both of
these factors become negative. This means that acoustic potential will be minimal
when hv02i is minimal and hp20i is maximal or with different words particle will be
found levitating in points of pressure anti-nodes. Example for that are particles of
lipid and silicon rubber (in water; [7]). The latter example has positive factor f2 and
negative factor f1 indicating that this material can be found in both pressure nodes and
In presence of gravity gravitational term has to be added to expression for acoustic
potential (into (16) or (19); [8]): U = Uacoustic + Ugrav where gravitational contribution
is defined as

Ugrav = (ms − m0)gh (20)

Here ms and mf stand for mass of particle (sphere) and mass of fluid which is
displaced because of presence of particle whereas h again denotes vertical position of
Figure 8: Contour lines of acoustic potential in an experiment. Particle can be trapped
in potential wells (denoted by dark blue colour). Because of presence of boundaries,
sound source and reflector, acoustic potential is deformed. In experiment sound
source and reflector were at the distance 20.3 mm, while frequency was 16.7 kHz.
Particles from different material were levitated including balls of tungsten with
density 18.9 g/cm3. [9]

4 Viscous corrections
By now viscosity of medium was neglected. This approximation is justified when
there is no presence of rigid boundary in medium and wave attenuation is neglected.
Otherwise viscous term ηr2~v has to be added to Euler‘s equation (5).
In near-field levitation there are two rigid boundaries, bottom surface of radiator
and top surface of object ([10]). Because of viscosity acoustic attenuation is emerged,
in other words, momentum of acoustic waves is transferred to the medium, resulting
in net displacement of it (phenomena known as acoustic streaming) in space between
boundaries. This net displacement (stream) creates gradient of streaming velocity and
viscous force which acts as holding force (it stabilizes object in horizontal direction).
Hence, levitated object is considered stabilized. Experimentally it was noticed that
this stream‘s velocity (streaming velocity) is proportional to amplitude of sound
radiator, by increasing amplitude, streaming velocity (and viscous force) also
increases. This fact offers application of such levitating system (see section 5).
In standing waves levitation system different corrections are considered.
Thickness (characteristic dimension) of viscous boundary layer is defined as

δ=s ω , (21)

expressed with η as coefficient of viscosity and ω frequency of sound. In water at ω
= 1M Hz and at room temperature its value is δ ≈ 0.6 µm ([7]). In standing wave
levitation effect of viscosity can be neglected as long distances within a few δ are not
reached. It can also be neglected for particles for which characteristic dimension
exceeds characteristic dimension of viscous boundary layer (rs >> δ). Since we
consider model which assumes particles with rs << δ we have to regard viscous
Viscous corrections can be presented with numerical factors f1 and f2 used in
section 3.4. Since viscosity does not affect pressure in medium but only velocity of
its flow, only factor f2 has to be redefined into
2 ρ r ! 2 − ˜
0 δ 2(1 γ(δ))(˜ρ − 1)
(˜ρ, δ˜)
f , = f= (22)
s s 2˜ρ + 1 − 3γ(δ))
˜ 3 ˜ ˜ ˜
− factor γ(δ) = 2 (1 + i(1 + δ))δ and taking only Ref2(˜ρ, δ) in (16). If we consider
fluid with δ = 0 equation is reduced f2(˜ρ, δ = 0) = f2(˜ρ) to previous definition. Force
can than again be derived from (15). Contribution of viscous corrections depend on
viscosity of medium, material of lifted particle and its diameter. Relative change in
force on particle due viscosity of medium strongly differs, from 1% for polystyrene
particles with diameter 5 µm to 25% for pyrex glass particles with diameter 0.5 µm

5 Applications of acoustic levitation

A promising application is based on near-field levitation, non-contact transportation
([5]). As already mentioned above, streaming velocity is proportional to amplitude of
sound radiator. Let‘s consider that planar object is wider than sound radiator. Creating
asymmetric acoustic streaming above radiator also creates asymmetric stream causing
movement of object in direction of higher streaming velocity. By aligning several
radiators (stator vibrators) with different amplitude of vibrations, we can move
levitated object (Fig. 9).


Figure 9: By aligning radiators with different vibrational amplitude, object is moved

due difference in viscous force. Object is dragged into direction of higher streaming
velocity which is increased by increasing vibrational amplitude. [10]

Standing wave levitation has already been used for several different techniques.
Main ad-vantage of this approach is the fact that levitated object is isolated and it
cannot react with its surroundings any more. This is very desirable when studying or
dealing with chemical reactions especially with the fact that levitated particle is easy
reachable and available for handling. In physics ([5]) isolating of sample is desirable
when observing phase transitions, process of crystallization (NaCl for instance) or
when X-ray structure of proteins, nanoparticles... is in interest. This technique has
also been used for example for undercooling liquids below freezing point and
growing ice particles ([9]). Similar use of standing wave levitation is in interesting
experiment to isolate droplets of liquid (with typical volume in the range 5 nL to 5
µm corresponding to diameters 0.2 - 2 mm) and observe their evaporation process by
illuminating droplet and determing its volume with help of shadows ([12]). With
section 3.3 we can also see that we can study aggregation and interactions between
This approach can also be extended for levitation larger and heavier objects ([2]).
Idea is based on measurement results in section 2 where, if space between planar
object and sound radiator is multiple of half of sound‘s wavelength, standing wave is

Practical Researches
A group of researchers from Brazil and Uruguay build an acoustic levitator that
can lift and move small objects without touching them and without having to leave
them inside part of the levitator or rigidly locking a floating object into position a
precise distance from the device.
This levitator comes with a small cylindrical emitter that produces the sound and a
reflector whose business end is a small concave dish that reflects the high-frequency
sound waves back toward the emitter. On their return trip toward the emitter, the
original sound waves run into new ones coming from the emitter. When they collide,
the two waves of sound conflict with and obstruct each other to the point that they
form a standing wave -- an apparently stationary set of waves that provide a
consistent amount of pressure in one specific direction, with pressure points on each
with enough energy to suspend an object at that point as if it were sitting on a shelf.
"Just turn the levitator on and it is ready," according to lead author Marco A. B.
Andrade of the Institute of Physics at the University of Sao Paolo, who was quoted in
the announcement describing the acoustic levitator that was published in the journal
Applied Physics Letters.
The objects can't be very big, at least not yet. The objects in the test were
polystyrene blobs 3mm across that don't weigh enough to feel their weight on your
finger, but they should get bigger over time as researchers figure out how to
strengthen and balance the acoustic wave more consistently.
In May a group of British researchers from an organization called the Engineering
and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is affiliated with four universities,
developed an acoustic tweezers they could use to pick strings of cartilage cells from
the surface of a Petri dish and implant them precisely into place within a wound.
They developed the technique to help with knee surgeries during which surgeons
could use the acoustic tweezers to mould a string of cartilage cells into precisely the
right shape to replace a missing tendon or ligament.


For the first time, researchers have succeeded in levitating and moving arbitrarily
shaped objects using acoustic (sound) waves. The researchers, from the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, have already used their new-found magical
powers of levitation to collide a granule of coffee and water to create instant coffee in
mid-air — and more excitingly, a droplet of water and a piece of sodium (the
explosively awesome video is embedded below). The same approach could
potentially work on humans, though, without further refinements to the technology,
we would probably explode or suffer catastrophic internal bleeding.
Acoustic levitation is desirable because, unlike magnetic levitation, it can be used
on any object — not just materials and liquids that are magnetic. Likewise, buoyancy
can be used to “levitate” some liquids, but again there are strict limitations on what
liquids can be used (they must be immiscible, as with water and oil). The only
limitation with acoustic levitation is that the object’s diameter must correspond to
half the wavelength of the acoustic waves. As you can see, the team have no issues
levitating a toothpick — something that would be impossible with both magnetic and
buoyancy levitation.

Acoustic levitation has been performed before, but with very limited control of the
object’s movement. The breakthrough here is that researchers are able to move their
acoustically levitated objects up and down, as well as side to side. The levitation
effect is created by standing waves — static (standing) waves that are held in place
by a reflector that bounces the same wave back upon itself, causing interference.
Whereas waves usually oscillate up and down as they move through the air, a
standing wave is essentially static, with the waveform forced to stay in one place.
This standing wave creates a consistent upwards pressure that, if it has a strong
enough amplitude (volume), can cancel out the gravity of an object placed in the
standing wave.
In short, if you have enough power, you could levitate just about anything with
acoustic waves — including a human. The power required would be immense,
though, and at this point it isn’t clear if a human would even survive the acoustic forces . Furthermore, before you
start dreaming of a portable levitation device (a jet pack!), the power requirements
would probably be well beyond the capabilities of today’s lithium-ion battery packs.
(Levitating a water drop requires around 160 dB).

Development in micro world

In reality, this new development — being able to levitate multiple objects and
manipulate them in a 3D space — is much more likely to find use on a smaller scale.
There are many chemical and biological processes that can be disrupted by contact
with a surface, and acoustic levitation is the perfect solution for such situations. Not
being confined to magnetism or buoyancy as a means of levitation is also a massive
boon for science: Instead of being confined to purely magnetic objects, scientists can
now react anything with levitation. This might be as straight forward as reacting
water and sodium, as per the video above, or it might be as complex as introducing
foreign DNA into other cells using DNA transfection.
Basic principles of acoustic levitation was first observed in Kundt‘s tube in 1866
when small dust particles moved toward pressure nodes of standing wave. Since then
it has found its place as an experimental method in many di fferent sub sciences of
physics and chemistry, even biology for studying cells. As already mentioned
acoustic levitation provides us a tool to isolate particles, samples, cells... Acoustic
forces on them are very gentle. It was shown that neither short- neither long-term of
exposure of ultrasound does not make any viability losses on cells ([7]). Similar
results are shown by levitating small animals (like ladybugs, ants...; [2]). Their
vitality was not affected.

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