April 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM ET
Fans of the British sci-fi series Doctor Who go gaga over a gadget called the sonic screwdriver, a fabulously multipurpose tool, akin to Star Trek’s equally famous tricorder, that can do everything from pick locks and detect land mines to scan for diseases.
Now, British scientists have created a real-world working version of the futuristic screwdriver.
Their fictional device, seen in the image above, is much cooler than real one shown in the video below, which uses ultrasound to lift and rotate a rubber disc that’s floating in a tube of water.
The tool may sound mundane but it offers some key life-saving functions. The control over ultrasound beams can “be applied to non-invasive ultrasound surgery, targeted drug delivery and ultrasonic manipulation of cells," Mike MacDonald, of the Institute for Medical Science and Technology at Dundee, said in a press release.
Dundee University explains the researchers used energy from an ultrasound array to form a beam that can both carry momentum to push away an object in its path and, by using a beam shaped like a helix or vortex, cause the object to rotate.
He and colleagues describe their real-world sonic screwdriver in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Letters.
No, the team isn’t the only one working on real-world sonic screwdrivers. Another team at Bristol University is on a similar path, though, when we reported on it, they had yet to spin ultrasonic waves to create a twisting force. The Dundee team appears to have the twist down.
-- Via Gizmag
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.