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Science & Technology

Physicists develop working tractor beam

By T.K. Randall
October 20, 2014 · Comment icon 9 comments

Tractor beams can potentially push or pull objects from a distance. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Adams
The remarkable new technology is capable of pushing or pulling solid objects using nothing but lasers.
Tractor beams have been a staple of science fiction movies and TV shows for years, but now scientists from the Australian National University have developed a real-life version of the technology that can move objects 100 times further than previous efforts.

Described as the 'holy grail' for laser physicists, the system works by firing a hollow laser beam at a target which causes it to move by heating up the particles in the air around it.
At the moment the tractor beam is able to move objects measuring up to 0.2mm a distance of 20cm, however the potential is there for much larger scale demonstrations.

"Because lasers retain their beam quality for such long distances, this could work over metres," said Dr Vladlen Shvedov. "Our lab just was not big enough to show it."

Source: Sky News | Comments (9)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by tagace1 10 years ago
we are pushing the limits of our technology
Comment icon #2 Posted by Mikenator 10 years ago
Once again another thing that will never be available to the public for several years also twenty centimeters is barely any movement
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer 10 years ago
Once again another thing that will never be available to the public for several years also twenty centimeters is barely any movement 20 cm is a start. How many meters or feet did you want for the first working model? The tractor beam still wouldn't work in space as the article states the air molecules are heated to cause the movement. Not many air molecules in space.
Comment icon #4 Posted by pallidin 10 years ago
20 cm is a start. How many meters or feet did you want for the first working model? The tractor beam still wouldn't work in space as the article states the air molecules are heated to cause the movement. Not many air molecules in space. I agree, this technology would be more for earth-based or some planetary environments. More likely(it seems to me) that it would be more useful in nanotechnology manipulation or some such thing.
Comment icon #5 Posted by aidaubmeg459 10 years ago
Very interesting. However the article says it is able to push or PULL. I can understand it pushing by expanding the air molecules directly beside the object. But how can that translate to pulling? If they have discovered a way to cool the air molecules via a hollow laser beam it seems the applications in refrigeration would far out weigh earth based tractor beams, if only in the safety and efficiency of our current methods of refrigeration through the compression and expansion of gases.
Comment icon #6 Posted by bigjonalien 10 years ago
I've moved stuff further with telekinesis. This doesn't compare to black projects!
Comment icon #7 Posted by rattpoison 10 years ago
I can't wait until I can get one that can pull a beer to me from the fridge during football.
Comment icon #8 Posted by taniwha 10 years ago
However the article says it is able to push or PULL. I can understand it pushing by expanding the air molecules directly beside the object. But how can that translate to pulling? ...Additionally, by varying the polarization state of the beam we can stop the spheres or reverse the direction of their motion at will... http://www.nature.com/nphoton/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphoton.2014.242.html
Comment icon #9 Posted by Junior Chubb 10 years ago
Chewie, lock in the auxiliary power


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