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Scientists create scifi Tractor Beam

Star Trek fans will rejoice, because Scientists have invented a real life Tractor Beam which uses light to attract objects.

Star Trek may have used a tractor beam to drag along another space craft, however Scientists in the real world are hoping that it could have an impact in medical situations, such as targeting and attracting specific cells.

The research has been published in Nature Photonics and was led by the University of St. Andrews. It is currently limited to moving microscopic particles, but the future for the technology is certainly interesting.

Tractor Beam: It won't be able to move huge physical objects, but the medical possibilities are impressive

Dr Tomas Cizmar, the new study's lead researcher, research fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews said “The practical applications could be very great, very exciting. The tractor beam is very selective in the properties of the particles it acts on, so you could pick up specific particles in a mixture.

Eventually this could be used to separate white blood cells, for example.”

Often, when microscopic objects are targeted by a beam of light, they are forced along the direction of the beam by light photons. Dr Cizmar's technique allows for that force to be reversed, which he said some people may find counter intuitive.

He said “It's surprising. Only when we looked in detail at the process did we see the reversal. It's quite a narrow field it occurs at.”

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