NYU Scientists Are Seriously Working On A Tractor Beam

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Photo: via MaxCDN

A couple New York University researchers just published a paper about the possibility of building a real-life, no joke tractor beam.Yes, like in Star Wars, but no, not like in Star Wars.

Not so because they can only get it to work on particles and molecules so far.

From the abstract submitted by Doctors David B. Ruffner and David G. Grier, of the Department of Physics and centre for Soft Matter Research, NYU:

We experimentally demonstrate a class of tractor beams created by coherently superposing coaxial Bessel beams. These optical conveyors have periodic intensity variations along their axes that act as highly effective optical traps for micrometer-scale objects. Trapped objects can be moved selectively upstream or downstream along the conveyor by appropriately changing the Bessel beams’ relative phase. The same methods used to project a single optical conveyor can project arrays of independent optical conveyors, allowing bidirectional transport in three dimensions.

To save you the trouble of reading through the paper, basically this is a huge development because previously, “tractor” beams, or optical conveyors, needed two points of origin, which would oscillate particle output to push the principal to the left or right of the beam.

This new research needs only one point of origin. 

From their paper:

Here, we describe another category of tractor beams derived from the optical conveyor belts introduced in Refs. [2, 3, 4] that can be projected from a single source and can transport material bidirectionally without the aid of outside forces. A one-sided optical conveyor is formed by projecting two or more coherent Bessel beams along the same axis and systematically varying their relative phase.

Now this from the synopsis written on Physics Applications:

Now in Physical Review Letters, David Ruffner and David Grier of New York University describe pushing and pulling particles over relatively long distances—tens of microns and, in principle, much longer—using a “tractor beam” that could prove more versatile.

Although the technique won’t be snagging enemy spacecraft anytime soon, it could be a powerful way to manipulate objects under a microscope.

There are military applications for sure, nonetheless it’s still a long way from snatching galactic princesses out of space, but, hey, it’s a start.

NOW SEE: The Boing Mach-5 Waverider Is Going For One More Go-Round Before Hitting The Scrap Heap >

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