Chinese researchers have developed the first tractor beam powerful enough to control macroscopic objects, according to a recent study that was published in the journal Optic Express.
That means you can use your unaided sight to see the device in action.
You may be surprised to learn that while tractor beams are often used in science fiction, they have also been used in the actual world for some time, although on a very limited scale.
Atoms and nanoparticles may be pulled by microscopic tractor beams, sometimes referred to as optical tweezers, for application in science and medicine. However, we have never been able to see this in action.
That has changed now.
Actually, the first experiment was carried out in a tightly regulated lab, manipulating a particular kind of graphene composite, and doing it in a rarefied gaseous environment at a pressure lower than that of Earth’s atmosphere. It may seem very tiny or small but they actually moved something with a frickin’ laser!
“With our new approach, the light pulling force has a much larger amplitude. In fact, it is more than three orders of magnitudes larger than the light pressure used to drive a solar sail, which uses the momentum of photons to exert a small pushing force.”
The laser pulling phenomena was shown in the tests using a torsional pendulum. The current work demonstrates that flexible light manipulation of macroscopical objects is conceivable by regulating the interactions between the light, object, and medium. It also emphasizes how intricate laser-matter interactions are.
Lei Wang’s team will likely continue to explore new ideas.
This is not it yet as there will be more. According to the research:
“This work expands the scope of optical pulling from microscale to macroscale, which has great potential in macroscale optical manipulations.”