Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Beam Me Up: 'Tractor beams' of light pull small objects towards them

Date:
May 24, 2012
Source:
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Summary:
‘Tractor beams’ of light that pull objects towards them are no longer science fiction. Scientists have now demonstrated how a tractor beam can in fact be realized on a small scale.

Laser for projection. Could lasers also be used as 'tractor beams' to pull objects towards them?
Credit: Denis Dryashkin / Fotolia

'Tractor beams' of light that pull objects towards them are no longer science fiction. Haifeng Wang at the A*STAR Data Storage Institute and co-workers have now demonstrated how a tractor beam can in fact be realized on a small scale.

Related Articles


Tractor beams are a well-known concept in science fiction. These rays of light are often shown pulling objects towards an observer, seemingly violating the laws of physics, and of course, such beams have yet to be realised in the real world. Haifeng Wang at the A*STAR Data Storage Institute and co-workers have now demonstrated how a tractor beam can in fact be realized on a small scale. "Our work demonstrates a tractor beam based only on a single laser to pull or push an object of interest toward the light source," says Wang.

Based on pioneering work by Albert Einstein and Max Planck more than a hundred years ago, it is known that light carries momentum that pushes objects away. In addition, the intensity that varies across a laser beam can be used to push objects sideways, and for example can be used to move cells in biotechnology applications. Pulling an object towards an observer, however, has so far proven to be elusive. In 2011, researchers theoretically demonstrated a mechanism where light movement can be controlled using two opposing light beams -- though technically, this differs from the idea behind a tractor beam.

Wang and co-workers have now studied the properties of lasers with a particular type of distribution of light intensity across the beam, or so-called Bessel beams. Usually, if a laser beam hits a small particle in its path, the light is scattered backwards, which in turn pushes the particle forward. What Wang and co-workers have now shown theoretically for Bessel beams is that for particles that are sufficiently small, the light scatters off the particle in a forward direction, meaning that the particle itself is pulled backwards towards the observer. In other words, the behaviour of the particle is the direct opposite of the usual scenario. The size of the tractor beam force depends on parameters such as the electrical and magnetic properties of the particles.

Although the forces are not very large, such tractor beams do have real applications, says Wang. "These beams are not very likely to pull a human or a car, as this would require a huge laser intensity that may damage the object," says Wang. "However, they could manipulate biological cells because the force needed for these doesn't have to be large."

Such applications are the driving force for future experimental demonstrations of such pulling effects. The technology could, for example, be used to gauge the tensile strength of cells, which would be useful to investigate whether cells have been infected. "For instance, the malaria-infected blood cell is more rigid, and this technology would be an easy-to-use tool to measure this," adds Wang.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrey Novitsky, Cheng-Wei Qiu, Haifeng Wang. Single Gradientless Light Beam Drags Particles as Tractor Beams. Physical Review Letters, 2011; 107 (20) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.203601

Cite This Page:

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). "Beam Me Up: 'Tractor beams' of light pull small objects towards them." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524134527.htm>.
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). (2012, May 24). Beam Me Up: 'Tractor beams' of light pull small objects towards them. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524134527.htm
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). "Beam Me Up: 'Tractor beams' of light pull small objects towards them." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524134527.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Jaguar Land Rover Opens $800 Million Factory in Britain

Jaguar Land Rover Opens $800 Million Factory in Britain

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) British luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover opened a $800 million engine manufacturing centre in western England, creating 1,400 jobs. Duration: 00:45 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
SkyCruiser Concept Claims to Solve Problem With Flying Cars

SkyCruiser Concept Claims to Solve Problem With Flying Cars

Buzz60 (Oct. 30, 2014) A start-up company called Krossblade says its SkyCruiser concept flying car solves the problem with most flying car concepts. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Dancing, spinning and fighting robots are showing off their agility at "Robocomp" in Krakow. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins