People often harp on about how we shouldn’t be spending money on research into space age technologies, collecting rocks from other planets, or even consider the idea of sending people there, when we have so many problems here on Earth. What people often don’t realise is it’s these very technologies that force us to strive beyond what we already have and know, that can bring us so many benefits. Take the latest development in reversible tractor beam technology, which is thought could one day help us fix the problems with our atmosphere.
While we have made these sorts of beams before, it’s only lately that it’s been made reversible and able to move anything a noticeable distance. Using a hollow laser beam, researchers at the Australian National University managed to move particles of 0.2mm diameter up to 20 centimetres, but most importantly the beam can be ‘reversed’ in order too move the particles in the opposite direction, giving a push-pull beam technology for the first time.
As CNET explains, the researchers were able to achieve this movement by firing the hollow laser at gold-coated hollow glass particles, which heats them up at specific points. These hotspots are impacted by air molecules, which then repel the gold-coated particles in the opposite direction. Using minute controls, the scientists were able to heat up specific parts of the particles, thereby sending them in whichever direction they wished.
It’s theorised that future version of this tech could be used over longer distances, potentially to help control pollution in the atmosphere, or be used to obtain very delicate samples where alternative recovery options could damage them.
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KitGuru Says: This is a few steps away from the tractor beams we’ve seen in sci-fi films and certainly wouldn’t work in the vacuum of space, but it’s an important step to developing some potentially very exciting technology.