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Sonic screwdriver 'may become reality'

A working version of Doctor Who's trusty sonic screwdriver could be created using existing technology, engineers at the University of Bristol have said.

But in practice it is more likely to be used for putting up shelves than defeating Daleks.

Powerful ultrasonic sound waves could be spun at high-speed to create the twisting force needed to undo and fix screws, according to the engineers.The team has experimented with rotating ultrasonic force fields, which could act like the head of a screwdriver.

Professor of Ultrasonics Bruce Drinkwater said: "Doctor Who is renowned for bending the rules of science. But technology has radically moved on since the Doc first stepped out of his Tardis in the 60s.

"While a fully functioning time machine may still be light years away, engineers are already experimenting with ultrasonic waves to move and manipulate small objects."

Ultrasound is already being used in modern manufacturing to fix parts together. In the medical field, ultrasonic beams are being developed to force apart diseased and healthy cells.

Prof Drinkwater added: "Doctor Who's adventures have captured the imaginations of millions, young and old. And, however far fetched the Time Lord's encounters may seem, there are engineers and scientists out there who are using their skills to bring the magic to life.

"The sonic screwdriver may still be sometime in the making but ultrasonic technology is already making its mark in the medical and manufacturing arenas with some exciting results."

The professor has teamed up with Big Bang, a celebration of science and engineering aimed at inspiring young people. The event, taking place at ICC London ExCeL in March, will offer visitors the chance to take part in free interactive shows and workshops.

Related story:
UK’s largest celebration of science and engineering opens

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