In this paper, we proposed a new noncontact gripper called as swirl gripper. It generates swirling air flow to create an upward lifting force. This force can be used to pick up a work piece placed underneath the swirl gripper without any contact. In comparison with conventional pneumatic noncontact grippers, the uniqueness of the new gripper lies in that it is electrically (rather than pneumatically) activated. We carry out this study for clarifying the mechanism of the swirl gripper. First, we show the design of the swirl gripper and briefly illustrate the mechanism by which it forms a negative pressure to create a lifting force. Then, we experimentally investigate the characteristics of the pressure distribution, based on which a theoretical analysis on the swirling flow is conducted. Furthermore, we measure the relationship between the lifting force and gap clearance and reveal that there exists a levitation zone where a work piece can maintain a stable levitation. Finally, we verify the practicability by successfully noncontact handling a Φ300 mm silicon wafer with four swirl grippers.