Acoustic Holograms Transport Particles with Sound

November
2016

A new method for creating acoustic holograms vastly simplifies the process of using sound waves to move objects, which has application in ultrasonic diagnostics and material testing.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the Univ. of Stuttgart in Germany have figured out a way to make complex acoustic fields in fluids with only a single transducer and a 3D-printed plastic object.

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Sound waves transmitted by an acoustic hologram can generate ring-shaped crests at the surface of water, which can push objects, such as a paper boat as shown here, along defined trajectories. Image courtesy of Alejandro Posada, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.

Just as conventional holograms create images via the interference pattern of light waves, acoustic holograms create 3D pressure fields from interfering sound waves. These pressure fields can be used to manipulate particles, to move them into a specified pattern, for example, or sort them based on a common feature.

Making acoustic holograms has been possible for decades, says Kai Melde, a doctoral student in...

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