A Star Trek inspired tractor beam is now becoming a reality, according to scientists. The ideal was impossible a few years ago, but now it seems that the beam can be made using sound waves to move objects.
The team was able to use a ultrasound device that is already clinically approved for use in MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery to move and even rotate the object. They claim that their tractor beam is the strongest one ever created and they plan to continue to develop it to make it even stronger.
It has been created by Dundee University physicists and uses ultrasound energy to pull a hollow triangular object towards the energy source, according to the Daily Mail. Dr. Christine Demore, of the university’s Institute For Medical Science and Technology (IMSAT), said: “We were able to show that you could exert sufficient force on an object around 1cm (about 0.4in) in size to hold or move it, by directing twin beams of energy from the ultrasound array towards the back of the object.”
“The concept has been there for a long time,” according to Dr. Demore. “It took a couple of years to find the right pieces and get them together, with lots of other research going on.” She said their previous work on the sonic screwdriver led to the discovery.
“We can do other shapes and sizes, but it was the best shape to demonstrate what was happening,” she added.
Next, the team will focus on shaping the tractor beam to move different types of objects. The beam needs to be shaped to match its target and different shaped targets will require different shaped beams.
The development of the tractor beam will take some time to perfect, but the team believes their results will lead to advancement in ultrasound-based techniques.