Brennan Coulter
Jun 29, 2012

Acoustic Tweezers

A dime-sized device created by a Penn State research team has the ability to manipulate single cells and entire small organisms using ultrasound. The “acoustic tweezers” use simple electronics to precisely manipulate standing surface acoustic waves (SAWs), creating pressure fields in a liquid medium holding the specimen. The SAWs are created by running electrical current across a piezoelectric material generating mechanical vibration then run through a transducer connected to the piezoelectric substrate. These acoustic tweezers mark a significant advancement over their more conventional optical brethren: they are less expensive to manufacture, require 10 million times lower power densities, and, unlike lasers, don’t heat up and damage cells. Patent pending, the technology could ultimately lead to “noninvasive, and inexpensive point-of-care applications, such as blood cell and cancer cell sorting and diagnostics” according to a Penn State website news post.