Okay, so we’re not exactly a lot of brainiacs on the nerd-patrol, but occasionally, Shanghaiist likes to strap-on our horn-rimmed glasses, place our pocket protectors in a fully-upright position and go where no Shanghailander has gone before. Admittedly, our methods of scientific inquiry tend to primarily focus on nuclear science (hamsters in the microwave*) and chemistry (phenobarbital Jello shots), and while we have yet to be published, an article in the November 20 issue of Applied Physics has renewed our hopes for acceptance into the scientific mainstream.
According to LiveScience, researchers at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an have successfully levitated small animals using ultrasound fields.
After the investigators got the ultrasound field going, they used tweezers to carefully place animals between the emitter and reflector. The scientists found they could float ants, beetles, spiders, ladybugs, bees, tadpoles and fish up to a little more than a third of an inch long in midair. When they levitated the fish and tadpole, the researchers added water to the ultrasound field every minute via syringe.
Unsurprisingly, some of the animals attempted to escape the ultrasound field by crawling, flying, or flopping-around, but none were strong enought to do so. At the end of 30 minutes of levitation, reportedly, the fish died of suffocation, but the ant and ladybug appeared to suffer no immediate ill-affects.
Wenjun Xie, a materials physicist at Northwestern Polytechnical University, commented, “An interesting question is, ‘What will happen if a living animal is put into the acoustic field?’ Will it also be stably levitated? … Our results may provide some methods or ideas for biology research. We have tried to hatch eggs of fish [during] acoustic levitation.” While, it is quite beyond our powers of imagination exactly what these “methods or ideas” might entail, we are confident that Xie has something in mind.
In the past, researchers at Northwestern Polytechnical University have experimented with ultrasonic fields to contain materials that are too corrosive to be held in traditional containers, and while this is certainly the first time we have heard of levitating tadpoles, acoustic levitation has been used for many years. The video below shows footage from a 1987 NASA-related project.
* DISCLAIMER: Never place any living thing in an oven.