In the hugely popular Netflix series ‘Stranger Things‘, the mysterious character called ‘Eleven‘ had the power to move objects with her mind, without touching them. While such a thing in real life is not possible, people in the near future might be able to actually move items without ever touching them. Science fiction could soon become a reality as researchers from theUniversity of Minnesota have devised a new method for moving objects hands-free using ultrasound waves.
The study has been published in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal. The technique could possibly open the door for using contactless manipulation in industries such as robotics and manufacturing.
Though previous studies demonstrated that objects can be manipulated using light and sound waves, those objects needed to be smaller than the wavelength of sound or light. This time, researchers expanded on the previous findings with the new method capable of moving larger objects, using the principle of metamaterial physics.
Metamaterials are materials that are artificially engineered to interact with waves, like light and sound. When a metamaterial pattern is on the surface of an object, humans can use sound to move it in a specific direction without touching it at all.
“We have known for a while that waves and light and sound can manipulate objects. What sets our research apart is that we can manipulate and trap much bigger objects if we make their surface a metamaterial surface or a ‘metasurface,’” said Ognjen Ilic, senior author of the study and the Benjamin Mayhugh Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota Department of Mechanical Engineering.
that, we can control the acoustic force that is exerted on an object.”
The research team now plans to refine the method with higher frequencies, allowing it to move different materials and object sizes one day.
“In a lot of fields of science and engineering, robotics especially, there is the need to move things, to transfer a signal into some sort of controlled motion. Often this is done through physical tethers or having to carry some source of energy to be able to perform a task. I think we’re charting in a new direction here and showing that without physical contact, we can move objects, and that motion can be controlled simply by programming what is on the surface of that object. This gives us a new mechanism to contactless actuate things,” Mr Ilic added.