Levitating Drugs in Zero-G Could Make Them More Effective
It almost looks like CG, but the floating drops in this video are quite real and potentially life-saving.
The liquid spheres are being levitated in a special machine that uses two small speakers to form sound waves slightly out of range of human hearing — about 22 kHz — that bombard the hovering drops. The sound waves, arriving from both above and below, perfectly cancel each other out and generate what’s known as a standing wave that can hold small amounts of material. The machine was originally developed at NASA to simulate microgravity conditions for testing the effects of space on objects.
Aside from looking really cool, these zero-g globules could help create more effective medication. When drugs are created in a lab, they are typically left to dry in a petri dish, beaker, or test tube. Because they are in contact with a solid surface, the medicine crystallizes as it passes into a solid state. Unfortunately, crystal drugs are harder for the body to take up, meaning that sick people have to use more of the pharmaceutical in order to produce the desired effect.
On the other hand, medicines that evaporate while floating and not in contact with any surface are left in an amorphous state, making them more soluble and easier for the people to absorb them. Ideally, this would mean that patients would be able to take less of a drug to achieve results while having fewer side effects. Researchers are now working to determine which drugs would be best served by levitation of this sort.
Video: Argonne National Laboratory