The sonic screwdriver owned by the fictional British character Doctor Who could pick locks, perform medical procedures, subdue evil beasts and blow things up. Until recently, the sonic screwdriver was also only a fictional tool, but a team of researchers from Dundee University in Scotland have brought it closer to reality -- to an extent.
Which of the functions in the above list do you think the real life sonic screwdriver could actually be used for? If you chose, perform medical procedures, you're right. BBC reports that ultrasound technology has been known to push objects before but the researchers at Dundee have engineered it to turn objects. It states this technology could be used in surgery without having to cut a patient open or could move a "drug capsule" to the appropriate location in the body and activate it.
Watch this clip showing the ultrasound beams move a piece of rubber in a vortex motion:
BBC has more from the researchers about the tech:
Dr Mike MacDonald, of the Institute for Medical Science and Technology (IMSAT) at Dundee, said: "This experiment not only confirms a fundamental physics theory but also demonstrates a new level of control over ultrasound beams which can also be applied to non-invasive ultrasound surgery, targeted drug delivery and ultrasonic manipulation of cells.
"The sonic screwdriver device is also part of the EU-funded nanoporation project where we are already starting to push the boundaries of what ultrasound can do in terms of targeted drug delivery and targeted cellular surgery.Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver can perform medical scans and pick locks
"It is an area that has great potential for developing new surgical techniques, among other applications, something which Dundee is very much at the forefront of.
"Like Doctor Who's own device, our sonic screwdriver is capable of much more than just spinning things around."
Wired explains more of the technical achievements of the experiment:
The theory, which had been proven separately, is used in topics from quantum communications to biophotonics, but had not previously been proved in a single experiment. It creates angular momentum in a vortex beam using a number of intertwined helices similar in shape to DNA. The team showed how they could generate vortex beams with many intertwined helices, using a 1000-element ultrasound transducer array as an acoustic hologram. These beams are powerful enough to levitate and spin the 90g disk.
Just for fun, and for those of you unfamiliar with Doctor Who, check out what out the top 11 scenes showcasing Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver:
Doctor Who is a popular television series by BBC.