Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics at the University of Bristol, thinks a real-life sonic screwdriver is possible. From a press release:
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 trialled 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.
He says: “Doctor Who is renowned for bending the rules of science. But technology has radically moved on since the Doc first stepped out of his Tardis in the sixties. Whilst a fully functioning time machine may still be light years away, engineers are already experimenting with ultrasonic waves to move and manipulate small objects.”
Doctor Who is, it seems, like Star Trek was in the 1960s: an inspiration to young scientists looking to turn science fiction into science fact. Drinkwater:
“Doctor Who’s adventures have captured the imaginations of millions, young and old. And, however far fetched the Time Lord’s encounters may seem, there are engineers and scientists out there who are using their skills to bring the magic to life.
“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.”
(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)