Levitating droplets allow scientists to perform 'touchless' chemical reactions

June 24, 2020

Levitation has long been a staple of magic tricks and movies. But in the lab, it's no trick. Scientists can levitate droplets of liquid, though mixing them and observing the reactions has been challenging. The pay-off, however, could be big as it would allow researchers to conduct contact-free experiments without containers or handling that might affect the outcome. Now, a team reporting in ACS' Analytical Chemistry has developed a method to do just that. 

Scientists have made devices to levitate small objects, but most methods require the object to have certain physical properties, such as electric charge or magnetism. In contrast, acoustic levitation, which uses sound waves to suspend an object in a gas, doesn't rely on such properties. Yet existing devices for acoustic levitation and mixing of single particles or droplets are complex, and it is difficult to obtain measurements from them as a chemical reaction is happening. Stephen Brotton and Ralf Kaiser wanted to develop a versatile technique for the contactless control of two chemically distinct droplets, with a set of probes to follow the reaction as the droplets merge.

The team made an acoustic levitator and suspended two droplets in it, one above the other. Then, they made the upper droplet oscillate by varying the amplitude of the sound wave. The oscillating upper droplet merged with the lower droplet, and the resulting chemical reaction was monitored with infrared, Raman and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopies. The researchers tested the technique by combining different droplets. In one experiment, for example, they merged an ionic liquid with nitric acid, causing a tiny explosion. The new levitation method could help scientists study many different types of chemical reactions in areas such as material sciences, medicinal chemistry and planetary science, the researchers say.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Office of Naval Research.

The abstract that accompanies this paper can be viewed here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS' mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS' main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Chemical Reactions Articles from Brightsurf:

Shedding light on how urban grime affects chemical reactions in cities
Many city surfaces are coated with a layer of soot, pollutants, metals, organic compounds and other molecules known as ''urban grime.'' Chemical reactions that occur in this complex milieu can affect air and water quality.

Seeing chemical reactions with music
Audible sound enables chemical coloring and the coexistence of different chemical reactions in a solution.

Nanocatalysts that remotely control chemical reactions inside living cells
POSTECH professor In Su Lee's research team develops a magnetic field-induced heating 'hollow nanoreactors'.

New NMR method enables monitoring of chemical reactions in metal containers
Scientists have developed a new method of observing chemical reactions in metal containers.

Levitating droplets allow scientists to perform 'touchless' chemical reactions
Levitation has long been a staple of magic tricks and movies.

Predicting unpredictable reactions
New research from the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions.

First-time direct proof of chemical reactions in particulates
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have developed a new method to analyse particulate matter more precisely than ever before.

Finding the source of chemical reactions
In a collaborative project with MIT and other universities, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have experimentally detected the fleeting transition state that occurs at the origin of a chemical reaction.

Accelerating chemical reactions without direct contact with a catalyst
Northwestern University researchers demonstrate a chemical reaction produced through an intermediary created by a separate chemical reaction, findings that could impact environmental remediation and fuel production.

Visualizing chemical reactions, e.g. from H2 and CO2 to synthetic natural gas
Scientists at EPFL have designed a reactor that can use IR thermography to visualize dynamic surface reactions and correlate it with other rapid gas analysis methods to obtain a holistic understanding of the reaction in rapidly changing conditions.

Read More: Chemical Reactions News and Chemical Reactions Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.