VIDEO: The age of the Star Trek 'tractor beam' has arrived

Three-dimensional acoustic fields with shapes such as fingers, twisters and cages. These acoustic fields are the first acoustic holograms to exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them. Image: Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater, Sriram Subramanian

Scientist have created tractor beams, similar to those seen in the “Star Trek”.

They successfully moved tiny objects in a variety of directions using just sound waves, according to research by Spanish and UK scientists published in the journal Nature Communications.

By coordinating the timing of the sound waves across many sources, the researchers found that they were able to make objects less than a millimetre in size levitate, move and spin.

This video shows how the tractor beam works:

They plan is to use this technology to create larger tractor beams.

Ultrasound is made up of sound waves with frequencies above the limit of human hearing. These sound waves can be used in air, water or even tissue to levitate objects of different sizes and materials.

Asier Marzo of the Public University of Navarre in Spain and colleagues use an ultrasonic phased array to rotate and manipulate particles.

“Acoustic structures shaped as tweezers, twisters or bottles emerge as the optimum mechanisms for tractor beams or containerless transportation,” the scientists write.

The authors say the technology could one day be used to manipulate particles inside the human body and for targeted drug delivery.

The latest report is one of many projects around the world working ion creating a tractor beam.

Australian scientists have had some success in creating a tractor beam using lasers.

And physicists at the Australian National University (ANU) have created a tractor beam on water, providing a radical new technique which could confine oil spills, manipulate floating objects or explain rips at the beach.

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