Aussie scientists create tractor beam
By QMI Agency
Last Updated: September 11, 2010 9:52am
Going boldly where no scientists have gone before, a group of Australian researchers have developed a working model of a tractor beam like Star Trek’s fictional mass mover.
The tractor beam prototype developed by a team at Australian National University is so far able to move only tiny glass particles about 1.5 metres, but the researchers expect to soon stretch that distance to about 10 metres.
After that, the sky’s the limit.
The tractor effect is created when a hollow laser beam is directed at a particle. The laser heats up the area around the particle, but the particle itself stays cool and starts drifting inside the hollow beam.
As more heat is introduced under and to the sides of the subject, the glass particle is forced up the hollow laser tube. Speed and direction can be changed by altering the intensity of beam’s brightness.
“With the particles and the laser we use, I would guess up to 10 metres in air should not be a problem,” ANU researcher Andrei Rhode told Fox News. “The max distance we had was 1.5 metres, which was limited by the size of the optical table in the lab.”
Unlike the Star Trek tractor beam, the Australian device cannot be used in space because it needs heated gas to push the particles around and does not work in the vacuum of outer space.
However, Rhode said there are many functional uses on earth for the tractor beam, including the transport of dangerous substances and microbes, as well as sample taking and biomedical research.
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