Levitate liquids and insects at home with a build-it-yourself acoustic levitator

Levitation techniques are no longer confined to the laboratory thanks to University of Bristol engineers who have developed an easier way for suspending matter in mid-air by developing a 3D printed acoustic levitator.

Anyone who has felt their chest vibrating with the energy of the soundwaves at a music festival is already familiar with the principle behind acoustic levitation: using powerful acoustic waves to push particles from all directions and trap them in mid-air. By using ultrasound, it is possible to use powerful vibrations without causing any harm to humans.

Magnetic levitation uses magnetic fields to suspend objects in mid-air. Acoustic levitation is not as strong as magnetic levitation but it can act on a wide range of materials, from liquids to living animals and can also help scientists improve the accuracy of measurements.

Using a 3D printer, commercial ultrasonic transducers, some amplifier circuits, a 20V supply, and a simple microcontroller kit or Arduino board, the levitator can be built, emitting 40kHz waves on a single axis.

The team from the University of Bristol has developed an instruction packfor those wanting to assemble their own ‘TinyLev’ levitator at home or school to conduct experiments in acoustic levitation.

Dr Asier Marzo from the University of Bristol's Department of Mechanical Engineering, explains: “Historically, levitators have been restricted to a small number of research labs because they needed to be custom-made, carefully tuned and required high-voltage. Now, not only scientists but also students can build their own levitator at home or school to experiment and try new applications of acoustic levitation.”