Moving styrene balls

Hi all, have a dilemma and instead of using air I would like to use electronics.
I want to move 3mm styrene balls in an upward direction inside a glass container( fish tank) obviously without the water. I got the electronics idea when I saw a pair of speakers with a small amount of water inside them that would activate with sound to bounce the water upward. This is achieved both when connected to a music device or when a loud enough sound is picked up, the more noise the more intense the movement.
Hope someone can give me a starting point thanks


The effect with the water is because the movement of the speaker cone throws the water droplets into the air. You would need a very large speaker at very high volume to do anything other than gently bounce the styrene balls.

A small solenoid might work.

When I did something similar many years ago I used the solenoids from the print head of a repurposed dot matrix printer. But they might be a bit difficult to find nowadays!

The problem is going to be whether it fires with enough speed. An option would be to use the solenoid to latch a spring device on the push, and release it on the pull. More complicated to build, but the spring option means that experimenting to find the right effect would be much cheaper.


Hi Jeff, Emmanuele

This is the major hurdle. I can’t see any solenoid being much faster than about 10mSec for attack and release which equates to something less than 50Hz. Anyway I think the mechanical noise would drown out everything else.

Would these styrene balls respond to an electrostatic field (faster response and no noise) ?? I know that when you pick them up they can be hard to let go and get them off your hand.
Cheers Bob


Welcome Emmanuele :slight_smile:

Was this the video that inspired the project?

Jeff and Bob have got you off to an excellent start!
Very interesting project! I’d say the best way to arrive at your desired amount of moving is through experimentation, check out these Transudcers for another idea, generally the lower the coil inductance the ‘faster’ you’ll be able to drive the output.

Hopefully this can get your project underway, I’m keen to see it!

You can do it with ultrasonic emitters.
There’s a tonne of videos and projects online using ultrasonics to accurately position styrene balls in space.


Big thanks to all the people who replied to my dilemma. I’ve tried the speaker and transducer but neither move enough balls. Im going to stick with the air flow idea. I have a small video but am not sure if I can attach. The speaker in tank works ok but all the styrene congeal onto everything. Again, thanks for the info

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Hi Emmanuele,

Just before you grab any new parts I’d also try a frequency sweep test to see if any particular one is good at making the balls jump higher, if that isn’t yielding good results a PC fan should be quite enough and move a good amount of air.