Researchers Develop Ultrasound Levitation Capable of Bending Around Barriers


Researchers from University of Sussex developed a novel technology that can bend sound waves around an obstacle and levitate an object above it

A team of researchers from University of Sussex developed a leading technology capable of bending sound waves around an obstacle. The technology dubbed as ‘SoundBender’ can also levitate an object above it. The technology was developed by Professor Sriram Subramanian, Dr Gianluca Memoli, and Dr. Diego Martinez Plasencia at the University of Sussex and it is an interface capable of producing dynamic self-bending beams. These beams enable both levitation of small objects and tactile feedback around an obstacle. SoundBender was presented at the 31st ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium held in Berlin on October 15, 2018.

In previous experiments, the team failed to create sound fields of similar complexity and could not bypass obstacles that lay between the transducers and the levitating object. To overcome the challenges, the team developed a hybrid system that combines the versatility of Phased Arrays of Transducers (PATs) with the precision of acoustic metamaterials. This development eliminated the restrictions on sound field resolution and variability applied in previous approaches. The technology enables to experience haptic feedback beyond an obstacle and allows to levitate around an obstacle. Moreover, it also helps to manipulate non-solid objects such as gas flames.

SoundBender enables metamaterial to offer a low modulator pitch that creates sound fields with high spatial resolution. The PAT improves dynamic amplitude and phase control of the field. The novel approach facilitates new potential in ultrasound levitation that has a distinct advantage over other levitation techniques as it does not require specific physical properties in the object to be levitated. This enables its application in a far wider range of materials including liquids and food. The approach of self-bending beams was initially used in engineering applications that help to obscure buildings from noise or protect areas from earthquakes.


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