Sound Used To Levitate Objects By Japanese Researchers. Wingardium Leviosa!

Wingardium leviosa! Researchers/wizards at the University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology have figured out how to levitate small objects and move them in midair without ever touching them. The secret? The humble sound wave, that's what.

But don't start shouting at your pen just yet. It's been known for a while that sound waves can be used to lift small objects into the air, through a process called acoustic levitation. But the researchers in Japan added a whole new dimension to the phenomenon — literally. By directing "ultrasonic phased arrays" at a particular point in space, the scientists were able to move small objects not only up and down but also side to side, and all around the research area in three dimensions.

Here's how science's answer to the Ministry of Magic described their process in a paper on acoustic levitation, published last month:

Our manipulation system has two original features. One is the direction of the ultrasound beam, which is arbitrary because the force acting toward its centre is also utilised. The other is the manipulation principle by which a localised standing wave is generated at an arbitrary position and moved three-dimensionally by opposed and ultrasonic phased arrays.

If the description is difficult to understand — it's okay if you're having trouble, witchcraft can be hard to grasp— here's a video the group released demonstrating all the nifty things the new technology can do.

Yoichi Ochiai on YouTube

Mostly, it just looks cool. But eventually the technology could open new avenues in transportation, art, engineering, and a number of other applications. The Tokyo researchers say that they hope to refine their levitation methods to eventually create a new way to assemble delicate electronics, or perform tasks in low-gravity environments.

Snape?! Did you come back to us?