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Apr 22, 2021

Levitation That’s No Trick: Scientists to Perform “Touchless” Chemical Reactions

Posted by in categories: chemistry, particle physics

Levitation has long been a staple of magic tricks and movies. But in the lab, it’s no trick. Scientists can levitate droplets of liquid, though mixing them and observing the reactions has been challenging. The pay-off, however, could be big as it would allow researchers to conduct contact-free experiments without containers or handling that might affect the outcome. Now, a team reporting in ACS’ Analytical Chemistry has developed a method to do just that.

Scientists have made devices to levitate small objects, but most methods require the object to have certain physical properties, such as electric charge or magnetism. In contrast, acoustic levitation, which uses sound waves to suspend an object in a gas, doesn’t rely on such properties. Yet existing devices for acoustic levitation and mixing of single particles or droplets are complex, and it is difficult to obtain measurements from them as a chemical reaction is happening. Stephen Brotton and Ralf Kaiser wanted to develop a versatile technique for the contactless control of two chemically distinct droplets, with a set of probes to follow the reaction as the droplets merge.

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