Scientists have invented a tractor beam which is able to move large objects longer distances than ever before by using a laser light.
A team of researchers at the Australian National University in Canberra have brought the art of molecular transportation, made famous by the catchphrase ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ from the TV series Star Trek, a fraction closer.
Using what they call tractor beams – rays of energy that can move objects – they have managed to move tiny particles up to 59 inches from one place to another.
While physicists have been able to manipulate tiny particles over minuscule distances by using lasers for years, Andrei Rhode, one of the Canberra researchers, says his team’s technique can move objects one hundred times that size over a distance of almost five feet.
The method involves shining a hollow laser beam around tiny glass particles which heats up the air around them.
The centre of the beam which strikes the particles stays cool resulting in them being drawn towards the beam’s warm edges.
But the heated air molecules that are bouncing around strike the surface of the glass particles and nudge them back to the cooler centre.
Dr Rhode explained that by using two laser beams, the particles can be manipulated to move in different directions.
‘We think the technique could work over even longer distances than those we’ve tested,’ he said.
‘With the particles and the laser we use, I would guess up to 10 metres (about 33ft).’
The maximum distance he and his team could achieve was limited by the equipment in the laboratory.
But he said that unlike the tractor beams in Star Trek, his technique would not work in out space, where there is a vacuum.
‘On Earth, though, there are many possible applications, such as being able to move dangerous substances and microbes.’
By Richard Shears
Last updated at 10:19 AM on 9th September 2010
Source:: Daily Mail