Acoustic Levitation

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Destin from Smarter Every Day has a great new video exploring acoustic levitation. With carefully placed speakers, you can create a standing wave with sound that’s capable of levitating lightweight objects against the force of gravity. Around 4:00, Destin demonstrates this with colored water droplets, which is where the real fireworks start. As he turns up the volume on the speakers, the big droplets explode. This happens when surface tension can no longer hold the drop together. But the high-speed footage offers other clues about what’s going on. Notice how the drops flatten out as the sound volume increases. If you look back to the standing wave animation at 1:33, you’ll notice that just to either side of the nodes (the spots that don’t move), the wave is still oscillating back and forth a little bit. As you increase the sound volume, that standing wave gets stretched to a larger amplitude, which means that those little oscillations just to either side of the node get stronger (and steeper), too. This change in acoustic pressure squishes the drops into pancakes as the fluid tries to stay right at the node. Eventually the droplet is just too flattened for surface tension to keep it together and it bursts into smaller droplets. (Video credit: Smarter Every Day; submitted by Matthew P.)

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