Water Levitated With Sound Waves To Create Better Drugs (PICTURES) (VIDEO)
Scientists have turned to levitation to improve the development of new drugs.
The technique involves using sound waves to make water droplets hover in mid-air, as if by magic.
The US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory discovered the technique, and hope will result in new pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects.
The team explained that on a molecular level there are two categories of drugs - crystalline and amorphous.
Amoprhous drugs are absorbed more efficiently into the body because they are more highly soluble, but making them is harder because if a solution evaporates in contact with a surface, it usually solidifies into a crystalline form.
The key was to find a way to evaporate solutions without them touching anything - and for this they turned to Nasa's acoustic levitator, whcih was previously used to simulate low gravity.
The levitator users two speakers to generate sounds slightly above the audible range - 22 kilohertz - which when aligned properly are able to intefere with each other and create a 'standing wave'.
The group explains:
"At certain points along a standing wave, known as nodes, there is no net transfer of energy at all. Because the acoustic pressure from the sound waves is sufficient to cancel the effect of gravity, light objects are able to levitate when placed at the nodes."
The group is now analysing which drugs will benefit most from the new technique, and how it can be rolled-out to a wider use in the pharmaceutical industry.