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Scientists find way to make liquid levitate

08:30 Sat Sep 15 2012
By MSN NZ staff

In what looks like a magic trick, scientists have developed a way to levitate drops of liquid using sound waves.

The US Department of Energy's national laboratory carried out the study to levitate solutions containing different pharmaceuticals in an effort to improve the drug development process.

Releasing their findings this week, scientists said the experiment may lead to the development of new drugs that are easier for the body to absorb and more effective.

The experiment used a contraption consisting of two small speakers that generate sound waves at roughly 22-kilohertz, just above the range humans can hear.

The speakers were positioned one above the other so their sound waves interfered with each other and created what is known as a standing wave.

At points along the standing wave the acoustic pressure from the sound waves was strong enough to cancel out gravity, enabling light objects to hover in midair.

The phenomenon was first discovered by NASA to stimulate microgravity conditions.

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory are now using it to try and develop a way to alter the chemical compounds of drugs so they are easier for the body to absorb.

"One of the biggest challenges when it comes to drug development is in reducing the amount of the drug needed to attain the therapeutic benefit," said Argonne X-ray physicist Chris Benmore, who led the study.

"Most drugs on the market are crystalline — they don't get fully absorbed by the body and thus we aren't getting the most efficient use out of them," said Argonne senior manager Yash Vaishnav.