`Sci-fi` sonic tractor beam becomes reality

Tractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and lift objects.

Washington DC: A sonic tractor beam that can grab tiny objects and move them around using sound waves has become a reality now.

Tractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and lift objects. The concept has been used by science-fiction writers and programmes like 'Star Trek,' but has since come to fascinate scientists and engineers.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Sussex in collaboration with Ultrahaptics have now built a working tractor beam that uses high-amplitude sound waves to generate an acoustic hologram which can pick up and move small objects.

The technique could be developed for a wide range of applications, for example a sonic production line could transport delicate objects and assemble them, all without physical contact. On the other hand, a miniature version could grip and transport drug capsules or microsurgical instruments through living tissue.

Lead author Asier Marzo said that it was an incredible experience the first time they saw the object held in place by the tractor beam.

Sriram Subramanian, co-founder of Ultrahaptics, explained that in their device, they can manipulate objects in mid-air and seemingly defy gravity. "Here we individually control dozens of loudspeakers to tell us an optimal solution to generate an acoustic hologram that can manipulate multiple objects in real-time without contact."

The study published in Nature Communications. 

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