Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver a possibility says ultrasonics engineer

Ultimate sci-fi tool could have real world applications in manufacturing, medicine.

Comments Off on Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver a possibility says ultrasonics engineer December 9, 2010
by Design Engineering Staff

Doctor Who’s famous cure-all gadget could become a reality for DIY-ers across the world. 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. By operating the waves at frequencies way beyond the realms of human hearing, they can be used to apply forces to objects.

The technology is already being trialed 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.

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.

“The sonic screwdriver may still be sometime in the making but ultrasonic technology is already making its mark in the medical and manufacturing arenas with some exciting results,” Drinkwater says.