The Loh Down On Science

Levitating Liquids

Let’s talk frankly about scientists’ drug problems.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, no, not taking drugs—making drugs!

Here's the problem:  At the molecular level, helpful pharmaceuticals can either be orderly crystals or non-orderly amorphous molecules.  Amorphous drugs are absorbed by the body more efficiently, so you can use smaller doses. But creating amorphous drugs from molecules in solution isn’t so easy.

Why? To get to the drug, you have to evaporate the solution.  But if the drug's molecules are touching the container during evaporation, they tend to crystallize.

So how do you evaporate a solution without the drug touching anything? Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory now say: you levitate the droplets!

To do it, the team placed two audio speakers that generate specific sound waves so that their waves perfectly interfered with each other. The cool thing about such a standing wave is that there are spots where the acoustic pressure actually cancels out gravity.  No gravity and ta-daa: droplets float, evaporate, and leave their amorphous drugs behind.

Drugs and rock and roll: together again.  But for good!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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