Tractor Beams Get Real
2010-09-15 0:00

By Mike Lucibella | InsideScience.org

Tractor beams, energy rays that can move objects, are a science fiction mainstay. But now they are becoming a reality -- at least for moving very tiny objects.

Researchers from the Australian National University have announced that they have built a device that can move small particles a meter and a half using only the power of light.

Physicists have been able to manipulate tiny particles over miniscule distances by using lasers for years. Optical tweezers that can move particles a few millimeters are common.


The tractor beam in action suspends a small particle over an optics table.
Credit: Courtesy of the Australian National University


Andrei Rode, a researcher involved with the project, said that existing optical tweezers are able to move particles the size of a bacterium a few millimeters in a liquid. Their new technique can move objects one hundred times that size over a distance of a meter or more.

The device works by shining a hollow laser beam around tiny glass particles. The air surrounding the particle heats up, while the dark center of the beam stays cool. When the particle starts to drift out of the middle and into the bright laser beam, the force of heated air molecules bouncing around and hitting the particle’s surface is enough to nudge it back to the center.

A small amount of light also seeps into the darker middle part of the beam, heating the air on one side of the particle and pushing it along the length of the laser beam. If another such laser is lined up on the opposite side of the beam, the speed and direction the particle moves can be easily manipulated by changing the brightness of the beams.

Rode said that their technique could likely work over even longer distances than they tested.

"With the particles and the laser we use, I would guess up to 10 meters in air should not be a problem. The max distance we had was 1.5 meters, which was limited by the size of the optical table in the lab," Rode said.

Because this technique needs heated gas to push the particles around, it can’t work in the vacuum of outer space like the tractor beams in Star Trek. But on Earth there are many possible applications for the technology. The meter-long distances that the research team was able to move the particles could open up new avenues for laser tweezers in the transport of dangerous substances and microbes, and for sample taking and biomedical research.

"There is the possibility that one could use the hollow spheres as a means of chemical delivery agents, or microscopic containers of some kind, but some more work would need to be done here just to check what happens inside the spheres, in terms of sample heating," said David McGloin, a physicist at the University of Dundee in the U.K not connected with the Australian team.


Tractor Beam Team. Source: anu.edu

Article from: insidescience.org



Aussie scientists create tractor beam
From: TorontoSun.com

Going boldly where no scientists have gone before, a group of Australian researchers have developed a working model of a tractor beam like Star Trek’s fictional mass mover.

The tractor beam prototype developed by a team at Australian National University is so far able to move only tiny glass particles about 1.5 metres, but the researchers expect to soon stretch that distance to about 10 metres.

After that, the sky’s the limit.

The tractor effect is created when a hollow laser beam is directed at a particle. The laser heats up the area around the particle, but the particle itself stays cool and starts drifting inside the hollow beam.

As more heat is introduced under and to the sides of the subject, the glass particle is forced up the hollow laser tube. Speed and direction can be changed by altering the intensity of beam’s brightness.

"With the particles and the laser we use, I would guess up to 10 metres in air should not be a problem," ANU researcher Andrei Rhode told Fox News. "The max distance we had was 1.5 metres, which was limited by the size of the optical table in the lab."

Unlike the Star Trek tractor beam, the Australian device cannot be used in space because it needs heated gas to push the particles around and does not work in the vacuum of outer space.

However, Rhode said there are many functional uses on earth for the tractor beam, including the transport of dangerous substances and microbes, as well as sample taking and biomedical research.




Related Articles
Laser used to shoots down planes (Video)
Lasers Could Create Clouds, and Perhaps Rain, on Demand
Can world´s largest laser zap Earth´s energy woes?
World’s most powerful laser to trigger fusion reaction this year
Scientists Use Laser To Give False Memories to Flies
Astronomers clash with US air force over laser rules
US lab debuts super laser
Scientists Take Quantum Steps Toward Teleportation
Researchers Achieve Quantum Teleportation Over 10 Miles of Empty Space
Teleportation and Wormholes: The Science of ’Jumper’


Latest News from our Front Page

The TSA Wants To Read Your Facebook Posts And Check Out Your Purchases Before It Will Approve You For PreCheck
2015-01-26 21:11
The TSA is disappointed that so few Americans have opted out of its bottle-tossing, package-groping screenings by signing up for its PreCheck program. For a few years now, the TSA has been selling travelers' civil liberties back to them, most recently for $85 a head, but it's now making a serious push to increase participation. The TSA can't do it ...
What Happens To Privacy When The Internet Is In Everything?
2015-01-26 20:10
This week Google’s Eric Schmidt was on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he suggested that the future Internet will be, in one sense, invisible — because it will be embedded into everything we interact with. “The Internet will disappear,” he predicted (via The Hollywood Reporter). “There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things ...
Harvard Professor: Government Mosquito Drones will Extract Your DNA
2015-01-26 20:42
"Privacy is dead," academic tells Davos elite Harvard Professor Margo Seltzer warned that miniature mosquito drones will one day forcibly extract your DNA on behalf of the government and insurance companies as she told elitists at the World Economic Forum in Davos that privacy was dead. Seltzer, a professor in computer science at Harvard University, told attendees, “Privacy as we knew it ...
Netanyahu ‘spat in our face,’ White House officials said to say
2015-01-23 22:28
The White House’s outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to speak before Congress in March — a move he failed to coordinate with the administration — began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had “spat” in President Barack Obama’s face. “We thought we’ve seen everything,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior ...
Creators of martial law film "Grey State" found dead, reported as murder-suicide
2015-01-23 17:16
The creator of a not-yet-completed film about a central government takeover of society following a collapse and his family have been found dead in their Minnesota home, with authorities claiming that the deaths were the result of a murder-suicide. As reported by the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, David Crowley, 29, his wife, Komel, 28, and their 5-year-old daughter were found ...
More News »