Levitating Liquids for Better MedicinesCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: September 14, 2012 12:53PM
Medicines are a tricky thing to develop with all of the factors that have to be considered, including the internal structure of the drug. Amorphous structures are generally better because they are more readily absorbed by the body, which means that less of the drug needs to be used to get a desired effect. Making a drug with an amorphous internal structure is difficult though because when evaporating the solution it will take on a crystalline structure if it is in contact with a solid surface. Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory however have modified a technology first created by NASA to enable at least the study of amorphous drugs, if not the manufacture of them.
This technology actually levitates small objects using sound waves. Above and below the object are small speakers emitting ultrasonic tones which, if calibrated correctly, interfere in such a wave as to create a standing wave. At the nodes of the standing wave, the pressure from the sound cancels out the force of gravity, causing an object at the node to levitate. By levitating the drugs like this, researchers are able to study and evaporate the solution the drug is in, without it taking on a crystalline structure.
As only a small amount of the drug can be levitated this way, it is currently impractical for manufacturing medicine. However, it could be used to better understand why the drugs so readily take on a crystalline structure, instead of an amorphous structure, and from there, perhaps a mass production method can be discovered.