Acoustic levitation ... on Mars!


Last week's Saturday Morning Science Experiment was all about acoustic levitation, using sound waves to create high pressure areas that can move objects. Today, Wired has a story up about how that phenomenon could be used to help astro-colonists deal with pesky space dust on Mars and the Moon.

On the moon, there's no atmosphere and no water, so the dust particles don't get moved around, worn down and rounded like they do on Earth. Consequently, dust kicked up by rovers and astronauts is "very abrasive and sharp, like freshly broken glass," said University of Colorado Boulder physicist Zoltan Sternovsky, who was not involved in the study. Electrostatic charging from solar winds and UV radiation on the Moon makes this sharp dust cling to everything, including astronaut suits where it can work its way through the glove air locks. It also sticks to the solar panels that power rovers and other instruments. On Mars, which has a thin atmosphere, dust devils scour the surface and keep the soil from being as sharp, but it's still got plenty of static cling.

Acoustic levitation could remove the dust from space suits and equipment, once they've been brought back inside a space station, or other pressurized environment—kind of like an interstellar car wash.

Wired: Stereo Speakers Can Levitate Dust For Mars Colonists

Image courtesy Flickr user x-ray delta one, via CC