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Scientists bend object's movement to their will, use sound to steer direction of a ball

The success of this experiment has given rise to the possibility of delivering medicines and other biomedical applications through non-invasive ways.
Last Updated : 27 June 2024, 16:13 IST

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It is widely believed music can move the soul, the sound of the instruments can target one's deepest feelings and help navigate a variety of complex emotions. But have you ever seen an object being navigated by sound?

To a spectator from afar, this movement of objects may look telepathic—a 'power move' many have been eagerly waiting for—however the researchers have tinkered with sound to give us the next best thing.

Using an aquatic environment for their experiment, researchers from EPFL’s School of Engineering have successfully controlled the movement of floating objects with the help of sound.

They were even able to navigate these objects around obstacles which were placed in the aforementioned environment.

The success of this experiment has given rise to the possibility of delivering medicines and other biomedical applications through non-invasive ways.

In order to manipulate objects according to their will, researchers employed optics-inspired techniques.

“Optical tweezers work by creating a light ‘hotspot’ to trap particles, like a ball falling into a hole. But if there are other objects in the vicinity, this hole is difficult to create and move around,” Romain Fleury, head of the Laboratory of Wave Engineering in EPFL’s School of Engineering told Interesting Engineering.

Optical tweezers can manipulate microscopic particles in a controlled and static environment.

However, for the past four years the researchers have tried to move objects in uncontrolled environments using sound waves.

The team states that its method known as—wave momentum shaping— is 'indifferent' to the object's environment and is also unaffected by its physical properties.

This method only needs to known the position of the object.

The experiment saw a ball floating in a water tank with an overhead camera tracking its movement. Speakers were situated at the end of the tank which emitted sound waves and helped guide the ball along the predetermined path.

A second array of microphones “listened” to the feedback, known as a scattering matrix, as it bounced off the moving ball.

Interesting engineer reported the researchers saying, wave momentum shaping is inspired by the optical technique of wavefront shaping, which is used to focus scattered light. However, this marks the first application of the concept of moving an object.

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Published 27 June 2024, 16:13 IST

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