Scientists In Michigan Have Built A Primitive Sonic Screwdriver

Senior Contributor
01.11.13 5 Comments

Around this time last year, we reported that men could soon have a useful and temporary contraceptive by using the Sonic Screwdriver on their dangly parts. But apparently that wasn’t good enough for the University of Michigan; they’ve taken sonic surgery and substantially refined it.

Namely, they’ve made it way more precise, and converted light into sound in the process. Hm, this sounds… familiar.

Sonic surgery isn’t anything new, but it’s a cudgel, at best: Doctors use sonic energy to shatter kidney stones and high-frequency ultrasound to cook prostate cancer cells to death. But the most precise current technology gets is millimeters, not exactly useful for doctors hoping to do very small, precise cuts of micrometers. That’s important because the less you cut, the less danger there is to the patient.

Enter the University of Michigan’s sonic screwd-, er, scalpel, which fires a pulsed laser into a lens coated in carbon nanotubes. That increases the amplitude of the sound waves, converts light into sound, and focused that beam of sound into a pinpoint micrometers across. The end results?

Their beam can blast and cut with pressure, rather than heat. [Scientists] speculate that it might be able to operate painlessly because its beam is so finely focused it could avoid nerve fibers.

Human and animal tests still need to be conducted, but so far, everything looks good: They’ve tested in on a synthetic kidney stone and drilled holes in it, meaning in the future you might pass a stone and discover an intern’s “screw this noise, I’m out” note on it.

Also this means that Doctor Who, running around with that device, probably has his M.D. Which is a good thing since people with a Ph.D. demanding to be called “Doctor” is actually pretty tiresome and annoying.

Around The Web