The demonstration is one of the first times that an object larger than the wavelength of the acoustic wave has been acoustically levitated. Previously, this has been achieved only for a few specific cases, such as water droplets, wire-like and planar objects. In the new study, the levitated sphere is 3.6 times larger than the 14-mm acoustic wavelength used here.

The researchers, Marco Andrade and Julio Adamowski at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, along with Anne Bernassau at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, have published a paper on the acoustic levitation demonstration in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters.

“Acoustic levitation of small particles at the acoustic pressure nodes of a standing wave is well-known, but the maximum particle size that can be levitated at the pressure nodes is around one quarter of the acoustic wavelength,” Andrade told “This means that, for a transducer operating at the ultrasonic range (frequency above 20 kHz), the maximum particle size that can be levitated is around 4 mm. In our paper, we demonstrate that we can combine multiple ultrasonic transducers to levitate an object significantly larger than the acoustic wavelength. In our experiment, we could increase the maximum object size from one quarter of the wavelength to 50 mm, which is approximately 3.6 times the acoustic wavelength.”

Although there are several different ways to acoustically levitate an object, most methods use an ultrasonic transducer, which converts electrical signals into ultrasonic waves. The current setup uses three ultrasonic transducers arranged in a tripod fashion around the sphere.

As the researchers explain, the angle and number of transducers can be changed, and this does not interfere with the setup’s ability to levitate a large object. The ability to levitate the large sphere occurs because the three transducers produce a standing wave in the space between the transducers and the sphere. In previous methods, small objects are levitated by being trapped at the pressure nodes of the standing wave, but this is not the case here.