Electronic Sonotweezers: Particle Manipulation with Ultrasonic Arrays

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: Division of Imaging & Technology


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Description Acoustic tweezers, i.e. tweezers that use sound as their means of manipulation, existed but were generally quite crude prior to the work funded through this award. By developing new techniques, including with arrays of ultrasonic devices rather than single devices, our key contribution was that we were able to show the true versatility of acoustic tweezing.

With proper perspective, it can be seen that the work led to numerous interesting innovations including manipulation of electronic components for circuit assembly; rapid manipulation of particles optically illuminated by an external source as a way to visualise 3D objects; an electronic means to establish touch without conventional physical contact; and a way to hold objects such as living organisms in an extremely stable fashion so as to permit microscopy whilst also properly nourishing the organism.
Exploitation Route The outcomes of the funding have already been taken forward in both commercial entities (e.g. Ultraleap, www.ultraleap.com) and in a thriving academic community with its own conferences and sessions at other, multifacted conferences.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description The Sonotweezers programme in Dundee had two major outcomes: - In popular science / education, the possibility to establish a sonic screwdriver and an acoustic tractor beam were established. These linked to popular culture through the Doctor Who television series and the Star Trek television and film series respectively. - Our technical results generated commercial interest, which has not yet been taken forward.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Education,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

Description Sonotweezers - Agilent Technologies Foundation Research Project Gift
Amount $36,500 (USD)
Funding ID 2219-UK10 
Organisation Agilent Technologies 
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 03/2011 
End 02/2012
Title Highly stable contactless sample holding for simultaneous nutrient / drug delivery and optical visualisation 
Description The use of acoustic tweezers has been demonstrated as a way to hold biological samples in fluid, including complete, viable, macroscopic organisms, with sufficient stability for optical visualisation with techniques such as light-sheet microscopy, whilst simultaneously delivering nutrients and drugs that maintain the organism and allow the effects of the drugs to be observed. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Full impact is still to be felt as the Nature Communications paper describing the research method and illustrating its capabilities was published only in 2019. 
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08514-5
Description Academic collaboration with Penn State University 
Organisation Penn State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My research team has engaged in collaboration with the team in MRI at Penn State to explore the functionality of piezoelectric micromachined ultrasonic transducers for micromanipulation. Researchers in Glasgow have prepared device designs which have been fabricated at Penn State. The Glasgow researchers have then tested the devices and validated their performance, before application demonstrations at Penn State.
Collaborator Contribution Penn State researchers have collaborated in device design, carried out fabrication, and done application-oriented measurements.
Impact It is still early for outcomes but publications are expected to emerge shortly.
Start Year 2016
Description Academic partnership with University of Edinburgh 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Department School of Informatics Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Edinburghhosting a PhD student, Mr Rui Song, who worked on electronics for integration with piezoelectric devices ultimately to form large scale arrays for dexterous acoustic particle manipulation. I and my research team provided knowhow in electronics and piezoelectric devices and some physical devices for use in this work.
Collaborator Contribution The specialism of Prof. Underwood and his team at SMC is in integration of electronics with other devices. Hence, Prof. Underwood and Dr Song engaged particularly with electronics design, including development of an application specific integrated circuit and related electronics that allowed prototype acoustic tweezers to be demonstrated.
Impact This collaboration involved physics, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.
Start Year 2015
Description Collaboration with the University of St Andrews 
Organisation St. Andrews University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I and my research team, principally Dr Yongqiang Qiu, provided key knowledge of acoustic devices and their operation to allow the partnership to progress.
Collaborator Contribution St Andrews University, through both Physics and Biology, contributed optical visualisation and biological techniques.
Impact The key output was a paper published in Nature Communications: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08514-5
Start Year 2016
Description Dundee Science Festival Open Doors 2013, 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presenting the general concepts of medical ultrasound to the public

Generated questions and informal discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014