Researchers of Aalto University have made a breakthrough in controlling the motion of multiple objects on a vibrating plate with a single acoustic source. By playing carefully constructed melodies, the scientists can simultaneously and independently move multiple objects on the plate toward desired targets. This has enabled the scientists to do things like compose words consisting of separate letters with loose metal pieces on the plate by playing a melody.
The origin of the idea of moving objects by acoustic vibration can be traced back to 1787, when Ernst Chladni reported the first detailed studies on the aggregation of sand onto nodal lines of a vibrating plate. Since then and to this date, the prevailing view has been that the particle motion out of nodal lines is random, implying uncontrollability. But how random really is the out-of-nodal-lines motion on a Chladni plate? Here we show that the motion is sufficiently regular to be statistically modelled, predicted and controlled. By playing carefully selected musical notes, we can control the position of multiple objects simultaneously and independently using a single acoustic actuator. Our method allows independent trajectory following, pattern transformation and sorting of multiple miniature objects in a wide range of materials, including electronic components, water droplets loaded on solid carriers, plant seeds, candy balls and metal parts.