Seeking Solutions in Solid-State Chemistry - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Seeking Solutions in Solid-State Chemistry

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Applying acoustic levitation for elucidation of amorphous material.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing pharmaceuticals (1). The research facilitates the process for placing drugs from solution into an amorphous state.

The researchers applied an acoustic levitator that uses two small speakers to generate sound waves at frequencies slightly above the audible range at approximately 22 kilohertz (1). With the proper alignment of the top and bottom speakers, the speakers create two sets of sound waves that produce a standing wave. At certain points along the standing wave, there is no net transfer of energy. The acoustic pressure from the sound waves is sufficient to overcome the effect of gravity, thereby allowing light objects to levitate when placed at these points in the standing wave (1). A video showing the technology may be found at the laboratory's website (

The technology now can produce only small quantities in an amorphous state, but it is considered a useful tool in elucidating the conditions that optimise producing amorphous material.

Argonne National Laboratory's Technology Development & Commercialization Division is developing a patent for the method and is evaluating the technology for licensing for commercial development with pharmaceutical industry partners (1).

Chris Benmore, an X-ray physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, led the study and teamed with various scientists for adapting the technology for drug research. These scientists include Professors Stephen Byrn and Lynne Taylor in the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University (US) and Professor Jeffrey Yarger of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University (US) and director of the university's Magnetic Resonance Research Centre. The researchers also are now working on identifying drugs most suited to applications with the acoustic levitator.


1. J. Sagoff, "Real-world Levitation to Inspire Better Pharmaceuticals" (Argonne National Laboratory Information, Argonne, IL [US[), Sept. 12, 2012.


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