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Jan 13, 2023

Researchers create an optical tractor beam that pulls macroscopic objects

Posted by in categories: particle physics, tractor beam

Researchers have developed a way to use laser light to pull a macroscopic object. Although microscopic optical tractor beams have been demonstrated before, this is one of the first times that laser pulling has been used on larger objects.

Light contains both energy and momentum that can be used for various types of optical manipulation such as levitation and rotation. Optical tweezers, for example, are commonly used scientific instruments that use laser light to hold and manipulate tiny objects such as atoms or cells. For the last ten years, scientists have been working on a new type of optical manipulation: using to create an optical tractor beam that could pull objects.

“In previous studies, the light pulling force was too small to pull a macroscopical object,” said research team member Lei Wang from QingDao University of Science and Technology in China. “With our new approach, the light pulling force has a much larger amplitude. In fact, it is more than three orders of magnitudes larger than the light pressure used to drive a solar sail, which uses the momentum of photons to exert a small pushing force.”

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