The Best Levitating Chemical Reaction Vid You’ll See Today

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 18 2013 10:51 AM

The Best Levitating Chemical Reaction Vid You’ll See Today

Remember how certain frequencies arrange sand into mind-boggling geometric patterns? Well, now scientists are using acoustic waves to levitate substances and cause midair chemical reactions—further proof that sound is a force to be reckoned with. (As if we needed more evidence.)

And because scientists love us and want us to be happy, they’ve recorded a levitating chemical reaction between sodium and water and set it to a piece of Johann Strauss. And it is glorious.

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Now for the technical details. There are several reasons researchers would want to use acoustics to make particles dance. (No, hoverboards are not one of them.) For one, it allows them to study chemical reactions in a more free state—that is, not inhibited by contact with a surface. Previously, this kind of reaction would only be possible through the use of magnets (which of course limits you to materials that are magnetic) or immiscible liquids (those that are not easily mixed, like oil and water). By levitating substances with acoustic waves, scientists are free to experiment with vastly more substances—like toothpicks and instant coffee!

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Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.