Researchers test a method for moving objects with ultrasound alone


Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have discovered a new method of moving objects using ultrasound waves. The research paves the way for the use of non-contact manipulation in industries such as manufacturing and robotics, where devices don’t need a built-in power source to move. Although it has already been shown that light and sound waves can manipulate objects, the latter has always been smaller than the wavelength of sound or light, on the order of millimeters and nanometers, respectively. The University of Minnesota team has developed a method that can move larger objects using the principles of metamaterial physics. Metamaterials are materials artificially designed to interact with waves, such as light and sound. By placing a metamaterial pattern on the surface of an object, the researchers used sound to orient it in a certain direction without physically touching it.


“We’ve known for a long time that waves, light and sound can manipulate objects. What sets our research apart is that we can manipulate and trap much larger objects if we make their surface a metamaterial, or a ‘metasurface’,” said Ognjen Ilic, senior author of the study and from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. “When we place these little patterns on the surface of objects, we can basically reflect sound in any direction we want. By doing so, we can control the acoustic force exerted on an object.”

With this technique, researchers could not only move an object forward , but also pull it toward a source .” While this study is more of a proof-of-concept, the researchers aim to test waves at higher frequencies, different materials in the future. and objects of different sizes.

“I think we are breaking new ground here, showing that without physical contact we can move objects and that movement can be controlled simply by programming what is on the object’s surface. This gives us a new mechanism to operate objects without contact,” Ilic said.


The video in which researchers move an object with ultrasound



  • Shaping contactless radiation forces through anomalous acoustic scattering. (


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