One day soon, we may get to see the flying cars we were promised as citizens of the 21st century. Swiss researchers have figured out how to levitate objects and particles in mid-air—they can even move them once they're there. The process is called acoustic levitation, and it could change everything from pharmaceutical research to transportation.
Dominic Basulto at The Washington Post reports,
All acoustic levitation requires is blasting out sound at extremely loud levels (160 decibels—the deafening sound of a rocket launch) at a high enough frequency (24,000 hertz—the frequency of a dog whistle) that the human ear can’t detect.
Swiss researchers have been able to hone this process to move particles around mid-air, levitate a toothpick, and move objects around a "chess-like" board.
Soon, this technology could be used by pharmacists, to mix molecules without risking contamination. Transportation systems could be developed using acoustic levitation—yes, that means flying cars.
This research is being conducted concurrently with Elon Musk's quest to create Hyperloop, an alternative to high-speed trains that uses magnetic levitation to blast passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes.
You can watch a video of one of the Swiss researchers levitating small objects below (to appropriately futuristic-sounding elevator music). No word yet on what George Jetson has to say about all of this.