An emerging demand for the precise manipulation of cells and particles for applications in cell biology and analytical chemistry has driven rapid development of ultrasonic manipulation technology. Compared to the other manipulation technologies, such as magnetic tweezing, dielectrophoresis and optical tweezing, ultrasonic manipulation has shown potential in a variety of applications, with its advantages of versatile, inexpensive and easy integration into microfluidic systems, maintenance of cell viability, and generation of sufficient forces to handle particles, cells and their agglomerates. This article briefly reviews current practice and reports our development of various ultrasonic standing wave manipulation devices, including simple devices integrated with high frequency (>20 MHz) ultrasonic transducers for the investigation of biological cells and complex ultrasonic transducer array systems to explore the feasibility of electronically controlled 2-D and 3-D manipulation. Piezoelectric and passive materials, fabrication techniques, characterization methods and possible applications are discussed. The behavior and performance of the devices have been investigated and predicted with computer simulations, and verified experimentally. Issues met during development are highlighted and discussed. To assist long term practical adoption, approaches to low-cost, wafer level batch-production and commercialization potential are also addressed.