Hong Kong Scientists Inch Closer Toward Real Tractor Beams

Every Star Trek geek has dreamed of this day. We’ve all dreamed of setting our phasers to stun and making use of the Holodeck. Those two innovations aren’t quite here, but it seems like we’re getting closer to tractor beams.

Unlike regular lasers that push things away by plastic them with photons, a tractor beam would effectively be a laser that pulls things toward them. To do this, the Hong Kong scientists need something called a Bessel beam.

Also unlike regular lasers, Bessel beams remain focused at an infinite distance, rather than dispersing as it gets away from its source. Perhaps more interestingly, the Bessel beam is able to reconstruct itself past obstacles. It cannot be blocked.

Without digging too much into the science side of things, what this means it that scientists may be able to generate a large enough concentration of energy on the far side of the object and minimize the concentration of energy on the near side. The net result: the object is “pushed” toward the origin of the Bessel beam.

That’s some crazy stuff. Too bad, for now, it sounds like this is all theory and no practice. Where is Locutus of Borg when you need him?

[Giz via Arxiv.org]

Photo: Thomas Harriman


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