The tractor beam in real life (though it can only move a single atom)

The tractor beam in real life (though it can only move a single atom)

It is a staple of science fiction, but researchers have discovered a true tractor bar.

The University of Adelaide says that the tractor beam – or the light-driven energy trap – works well – with a small caveat.

Unlike his Star Trek inspiration, which can freeze or move entire ships, at the moment only atoms can be moved.

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Dr. Philip Light with the atomic chamber in which the nuclear tractor beams were generated. The tractor beam pulls atoms into a microscopic hole in the center of a special optical fiber.

Dr. Philip Light with the atomic chamber in which the nuclear tractor beams were generated. The tractor beam pulls atoms into a microscopic hole in the center of a special optical fiber.

Dr. Philip Light with the atomic chamber in which the nuclear tractor beams were generated. The tractor beam pulls atoms into a microscopic hole in the center of a special optical fiber.

Instead of sucking spaceships into a space station, as is common in Star Wars and Star Trek, this tractor beam pulls atoms into a microscopic hole in the center of a special optical fiber.

Experts say the pioneering experiment could pave the way for quantum experiments that could lead to new secure communication technologies or advanced sensor technologies.

"Although tractor beams in the films are green or blue, the trap is made of invisible infrared light," said Ashby Hilton, the doctoral student who developed the technology.

"The beam reaches for atoms that float in a chamber that is almost completely emptied of gas – a small sample of space on Earth."

HOW DOES THE TRACTOR WORK?

The tractor beam pulls atoms into a microscopic hole in the center of a special optical fiber.

The beam reaches for atoms that float in a chamber that is almost completely emptied of gas.

The tractor beam operates through the infrared light, which interacts with the atoms to produce an energy change that drives the atoms to the most intense part of the light beam.

"Every atom that enters the tractor beam is drawn into the fiber.

"Once sucked into the interior of the optical fiber, the atoms can be held for a long time.

"Our experiments show that we can control the light very precisely to create just the right conditions for controlling the atoms."

The tractor beam operates through the infrared light, which interacts with the atoms to produce an energy change that drives the atoms to the most intense part of the light beam.

Star Trek saw many ships with tractor beam capabilities that were often used to "freeze" or move enemy ships

Star Trek saw many ships with tractor beam capabilities that were often used to "freeze" or move enemy ships

Star Trek saw many ships with tractor beam capabilities that were often used to "freeze" or transport enemy ships

Scientists published in the journal Physical Review Applied say this is the first time scientists have been able to demonstrate a highly efficient waveguide trap.

"What's really exciting is that we now have the opportunity to conduct quantum experiments on these trapped atoms," said senior researcher Dr. Philip Light.

"Our first experiments aim to use these stored atoms as elements of a quantum memory.

"We hope that our work may be part of an absolutely secure communication channel that is obviously of great interest to defense, intelligence and industry."

The researchers are now moving to the next stage, where the tractor beam is formed from a hollow cone of light and not from a fixed beam of light.

The nuclear chamber in which the nuclear tractor beams were created. The scientists, published in the journal Physical Review Applied, say this is the first time that scientists have been able to demonstrate a highly efficient "waveguide trap".

The nuclear chamber in which the nuclear tractor beams were created. The scientists, published in the journal Physical Review Applied, say this is the first time that scientists have been able to demonstrate a highly efficient "waveguide trap".

The nuclear chamber in which the nuclear tractor beams were created. Scientists published in the journal Physical Review Applied say this is the first time scientists have been able to demonstrate a highly efficient waveguide trap.

In this new configuration, the atoms are held in the center of the cone of light, where it is completely dark.

"This is a very powerful idea – we can move and manipulate the atoms, but we can protect the atoms from the disturbing effects of intense light," says Dr. Light.

The researchers have essentially created a quantum funnel that allows them to guide and capture atoms longer without disturbing their sensitive quantum state.

Professor Andre Luiten, IPAS Director, says, "Our researchers manipulate and measure individual atoms and molecules to capture the world around us.

"This new era of quantum sensing opens up many new opportunities, from detecting disease by finding specific molecules in the breath, to helping miners and the defense by detecting anomalous magnetic fields associated with mineral deposits or covert submarine activity . "

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