Warp drive. Site-to-site transporter technology. A vast network of interstellar wormholes that take us to bountiful alien worlds. Beyond a hefty holiday wish-list, the ideas presented to us in sci-fi franchises like Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” have inspired countless millions to dream of a time when humans have used technology to rise above the everyday limits of nature, and explore the universe.
But to guarantee the shortest path to turning at least some of these ideas into genuine scientific breakthroughs, we need to push ideas like general relativity to the breaking point. Tractor beams, one of the most exotic ideas proposed by the genre that involves manipulating space-time to pull or push objects at a distance, take us beyond the everyday paradigm of science, to the very edge of theoretical physics. And, a team of scientists examined how they might work in a recent study shared on a preprint server.
“In researching sci-fi ideas like tractor beams, the goal is to push and try to find a demarcation point where something more is needed, like quantum gravity,” said Sebastian Schuster, a scientist with a doctorate in mathematical physics from the Charles University of Prague, in an interview with IE. And, in finding out if tractor beams can work, we might also uncover even more exotic forces, like quantum gravity. So strap in.
An acoustic tractor beam that can bend sound around an obstacle to levitate an object on the other side has been created by researchers in the UK. Dubbed SoundBender, the device combines an ultrasound transducer array with an acoustic metamaterial.
In recent years, researchers have used transducer arrays to build sonic tractor beams that can create complex acoustic holograms to manipulate objects in mid-air. Acoustic metamaterials are engineered materials with structural properties that do not usually occur naturally. They have been used to produce acoustic holograms, bend beams of sound and create static acoustic levitation devices. But the team behind the SoundBender, based at the University of Sussex, say that these technologies have key limitations.
Article by william brown, biophysicist, resonance science foundation research scientist.
Recently, increasing attention has been devoted to mastering a new technique of optical delivery of micro-objects tractor-beam’1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Such beams have uniform intensity profiles along their propagation direction and can exert a negative force that, in contrast to the familiar pushing force associated with radiation pressure, pulls the scatterer toward the light source. It was experimentally observed that under certain circumstances, the pulling force can be significantly enhanced6 if a non-spherical scatterer, for example, a linear chain of optically bound objects10, 11, 12, is optically transported. Here we demonstrate that motion of two optically bound objects in a tractor beam strongly depends on theirs mutual distance and spatial orientation. Such configuration-dependent optical forces add extra flexibility to our ability to control matter with light.
Modern construction is a precision endeavor. Builders must use components manufactured to meet specific standards — such as beams of a desired composition or rivets of a specific size. The building industry relies on manufacturers to create these components reliably and reproducibly in order to construct secure bridges and sound skyscrapers.
Now imagine construction at a smaller scale — less than 1/100th the thickness of a piece of paper. This is the nanoscale. It is the scale at which scientists are working to develop potentially groundbreaking technologies in fields like quantum computing. It is also a scale where traditional fabrication methods simply will not work. Our standard tools, even miniaturized, are too bulky and too corrosive to reproducibly manufacture components at the nanoscale.
Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that could make reproducible manufacturing at the nanoscale possible. The team adapted a light-based technology employed widely in biology — known as optical traps or optical tweezers — to operate in a water-free liquid environment of carbon-rich organic solvents, thereby enabling new potential applications.
Spaceships in movies and TV shows routinely use tractor beams to tow other vessels or keep them in place. Physicists have been hard at work trying take this technology from science fiction to reality. Significant process has recently been made by a team who have developed a laser tractor beam able to attract and repel particles about 100 times further than has been previously achieved. The lead author of the paper, published in Nature Photonics, is Vladlen Shvedov at Australian National University in Canberra.
Other recent tractor beams have used acoustics or water, but this one uses a single laser beam to control tiny particles about 0.2 millimeters in diameter. The tractor beam was able to manipulate the particles from a distance of 20 centimeters, shattering previous records. Despite this incredible distance, the researchers claim it is still on the short end of what is possible for this tractor beam technique.
“Because lasers retain their beam quality for such long distances, this could work over meters. Our lab just was not big enough to show it,” Shvedov said in a press release.
Thumbnail image courtesy of University of Bristol.
The world’s most powerful acoustic tractor beam could pave the way for levitating humans.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180121221627.htm “Acoustic tractor beams use the power of sound to hold particles in mid-air, and unlike magnetic levitation, they can grab most solids or liquids. For the first time University of Bristol engineers have shown it is possible to stably trap objects larger than the wavelength of sound in an acoustic tractor beam.”
Weaponizing Sound: How a ‘Silent’ Sonic Weapon Might Work https://www.seeker.com/tech/weaponizing-sound-how-a-sonic-weapon-might-work “A super secret sonic weapon being used to attack diplomats in a foreign country may sound like the start of a sci-fi novel, but that’s exactly what several US diplomats in Cuba may have been exposed to, the US State Department recently announced.”
In other words, they were able to levitate objects notably larger than what’s ever been possible before; a feat that theoretically opens up the potential of one day levitating humans.
Acoustic tractor beams use sound, or more specifically soundwaves, to hold particles in mid-air. While magnetic levitation also exists, acoustic levitation tends to work better for handling liquids and solids.