Ultrasonic engineers at Bristol University and The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair are uncovering how a real life version of the fictional screwdriver – which uses sonic technology to open locks and undo screws – could be created.
Professor of Ultrasonics, Bruce Drinkwater, who is working with The Big Bang to inspire young scientists of the future, says the answer lies in ultrasonic sound waves. Ultrasonics can be used to apply forces to objects.
The technology is already being trialled in modern manufacturing to fix parts together and ultrasonic force fields are being developed within the medical field to separate diseased cells from healthy cells. Professor Drinkwater and The Big Bang team are now exploring whether super powerful versions of these sound beams could bring Doctor Who’s iconic device to life.
He says: “Doctor Who is renowned for bending the rules of science. But technology has radically moved on since the Doc first stepped out of his Tardis in the sixties. Whilst a fully functioning time machine may still be light years away, engineers are already experimenting with ultrasonic waves to move and manipulate small objects.”
Engineers are looking into how ultrasonic waves can be spun at high speed to create a twisting force similar to that of a miniature tornado, which could undo screws remotely. They have also experimented with rotating ultrasonic force fields which would act like the head of a real screwdriver.
Doctor Who and DIY fans may still have to wait before they can add the sonic screwdriver to their Christmas wish lists. However, Professor Drinkwater hopes his work to make the impossible possible will inspire engineers, technologists and inventors of the future
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