New Tractor Beam Can Move Real-Life Objects

The world’s most powerful acoustic tractor beam has successfully moved a small object and enabled it to hover in space. Within a few years, scientist predict they will be able to move larger objects – and maybe even humans.

The acoustic tractor beam uses sound to vibrate things, enabling them to levitate in the air. The use of sound waves means the technology can be applied to most things, unlike magnetic waves, which can only be applied to metals.

Up until recently, scientists could only control tiny objects, but the new technology uses a fast vortex that spins like a whirlpool of sound, making it possible for larger objects to stay in place and not spin out of control. The new acoustic sound beam creates a twister-like motion around the object, causing the object to float without spinning out of control.

Tractor beam levitation is a major breakthrough for acoustic researchers, who have been working on the technology for years. While the underlying theory of how sonic beams work has been identified for years, a recent breakthrough has made it possible to manipulate larger objects, opening the door to many new possible applications.

Possible applications for the new technology include:

  • Control of drug capsules without touching them
  • Micro-surgical medical uses inside the human body
  • Move and manipulate fragile objects without breaking them
  • Production lines where there is no contact with delicate items
  • Handling dangerous or sensitive materials such as pharmaceuticals or explosives

Scientists are currently exploring how trapped objects could be used to form a new type of 3D display. Other applications are being worked on that would allow sonic tractor beams to function within the human body to deliver drugs in a specific way or carry out small-scale medical procedures.

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