This is a great month for our favorite science fiction technology becoming reality. Not only is a fully functional hoverboard on the market, but now scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have created and tested a tractor beam. While it’s not exactly what the Enterprise toted around the galaxy, it has moved small particles in tests.
And they’re very small particles at less than 0.2 mm. The really impressive thing is how far they were moved. Other tests of different technology were only able to apply a small amount of pressure on the target particle. But scientists at ANU and Keith Mann were able to move their particles a whopping 20 cm. That’s a huge improvement and an awesome advancement in technology.
The tractor beam uses a “hollow laser” to perform its magic. Within the open beam are placed gold-coated glass spheres on which a hotspot is created. The hotspots can be controlled and through a reaction with air, the spheres are moved.
The use of air reactions to actually move the particles means that this tractor beam would be unusable in space. However, scientists believe it will have great applications down here on Earth. The tractor beam could be used to clean up air pollution or to safely move dangerous particles in a lab. Regardless of its practical uses, the fact that we can now say that a tractor beam is possible is pretty awesome.