Acoustic levitation is an advantageous particle positioning mechanism currently employed for applications of x-ray spectroscopy and micro-material manufacturing[1], [2]. By levitating a particle using only acoustic pressure waves, one eliminates the need for a container or other physical structure which may contaminate the specimen. Unfortunately, the pressure field generated by a standing acoustic wave is susceptible to periodic instabilities, and a particle that is levitated in this field tends to vibrate. The amplitude of the vibration is largest in the directions that are orthogonal to the axis in which the acoustic wave is generated. Therefore, by generating additional acoustic waves in each orthogonal axis, the vibration amplitude of the levitated particle is significantly reduced. The authors have shown this phenomenon to be true in a previous study[3].

In this paper, the authors explore the details of the pressure field that is generated with the device. A single degree-of-freedom relationship is developed between the acoustic field pressure, the location of the levitated particle, and the mechanical vibration needed to produce levitation. In order to levitate a 100 micrometer diameter water droplet at 55 kilohertz, the calculations suggest that the transducer must achieve an average surface vibration amplitude of at least 6.43 micrometers. This mechanical vibration must produce a root means-squared pressure amplitude of 933 Pascal. Under these conditions, the particle will levitate approximately 0.4 millimeters below a zero pressure node.

To validate the use of the single degree of freedom relationships and to explore the acoustic field for one, two, and three-axis levitation, the authors designed and prototyped an acoustic levitator capable of generating standing waves in three orthogonal directions. Using a simple electrical control circuit, the acoustic wave transducers of each axis can be turned on individually or simultaneously. An experiment was developed to measure the pressure of the acoustic field using a microphone. Preliminary pressure magnitude results were measured for one-axis levitation along the center of the vertical axis of the levitator. The measurements suggest that the theoretical development provides a valid first approximation for the pressure magnitude and required mechanical vibration amplitude.

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