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Scientists Use The Power Of Acoustics For Real-Life Levitation

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Morenike Adebayo

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1650 Scientists Use The Power Of Acoustics For Real-Life Levitation
Real levitation used to aid drug research. Argonne National Laboratory.

These orbs of liquid aren’t magically levitating: they’re hovering on the power of sound waves.

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory used sound waves to float droplets of various solutions infused with medicines.


Why? While it does initially look like a cool party trick, the real benefits are for the pharmaceutical industry.

Medicinal drugs with a high solubility (amorphous drugs) enter into the body’s circulation more easily than crystalline drugs when taken. Because amorphous drugs are more quickly absorbed, their active effect occurs sooner when introduced into the body.

 “One of the biggest challenges when it comes to drug development is in reducing the amount of the drug needed to attain the therapeutic benefit, whatever it is,” explained Argonne X-ray physicist Chris Benmore, who led the study.

The true challenge presents itself when altering a drug from solution into its amorphous form: if it evaporates while within a vessel, it’s much more likely to harden into a crystalline state. “It’s almost as if these substances want to find a way to become crystalline,” Benmore added.


To be able to alter the state of a solution without it coming into contact with any containers does seem like a riddle. But this is where the sound waves come in. The acoustic levitator used in the video below was originally developed for NASA to simulate the conditions of microgravity.

Altering the frequencies of the acoustic levitator allows scientists to better see how the drugs react in solution with minimal contact.

The Argonne team of scientists is now working with scientists at Purdue University and Arizona State University to determine which drugs the levitation device will affect the most.



[H/T: Argonne National Lab]


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