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Researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Sussex and Ultrahaptics have successfully created a tractor beam that can hold, move, and rotate objects in mid-air without physical contact. (via the Universities)


Have you ever feared UFOs, a spot light shines on you, and just like that, be carried into the sky with a spacecraft’s tractor beam?  Well, thanks to English researchers, that dream is almost a reality.

 

Researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Sussex and Ultrahaptics announced last month the successful creation of a sonic tractor beam. The paper was published in Nature Communications last month. The team believes the technology holds the promise to revolutionize medicine and industry.

 

The tractor beam was created using 64 miniature loudspeakers. The speakers were used to create high-intensity and high-pitch sound currents, creating an acoustic force field and exhibited the power to hold, move and rotate objects.

 

By controlling the output of the loudspeakers individually, the team was able to create force fields of various shapes that controlled objects differently. Exhibited force fields included one that resembled pinchers, a vortex and a cube, which exhibited the ability to control the movement of a small ball placed above the loudspeakers.

 

The team of researchers certainly wasn’t the first to explore the technology. There is the Australian National University's attempt and one from New York University, to name a few. The University of Dundee researchers were the first to demonstrate success with acoustic tractor beam technology last year.

 

Still, the research conducted by the English team is significant because it is one of the first to demonstrate real control over an object’s movement; proving object can be rotated and moved horizontally across a plane, instead of just pulling an object toward the beam source. The findings are also substantial in the context of the future implications of the technology.

 

The researchers believe tractor beams can have a huge role in microsurgery and other medical procedures at a micro scale. If the technology proves successful on a larger scale, it may be feasible for automating certain manufacturing processes, among other things.


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