The Millennium Falcon was pulled into the Death Star, leading to odd YouTube videos and a generation wondering if any of this could ever actually happen. Well, scientists have followed through on testing the Bessel beam and now say a tractor beam is a very real possibility for the future.
By using a Bessel beam, scientists at Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have been able to create backward motion of particles in but separate from a forward-moving beam, though on a extremely small scale.
In 2011, both NASA and scientists in Hong Kong began to test the Bessel beam, which is essentially the X-Men of laser beams.
Wrote Even Ackerman on DVICE last Nov.: "A Bessel beam is what you get when you pass a laser beam through a cone-shaped lens, and the resulting beam comes out ring-shaped, with several unique properties: it doesn't spread out much over long distances (making it handy for long-range tractoring), and you can stick something in the middle of it and the beam will reform itself slightly farther on."
At the time, the theory was that the beam, because it wouldn't scatter and break the way most would, could form back together in front of an object and create electric and magnetic fields that would pull the object in the opposite direction of the beam.
In NASA's Lori Keesey's words: "According to theory, the laser beam could induce electric and magnetic fields in the path of an object. The spray of light scattered forward by these fields could pull the object backward, against the movement of the beam itself."
This no longer seems like theory, as A*STAR has actually done it. Though, again, this is on a extremely miniscule scale.
"These beams are not very likely to pull a human or a car, as this would require a huge laser intensity that may damage the object," said Heifeng Wang, a project member. "However, they could manipulate biological cells because the force needed for these doesn't have to be large."
Remember, though, this is the first reported success at having any particles move backwards in a forward moving beam. Not to mention the Bessel beam has been tested since at least 1996, when Washington State University used Bessel beams on sound waves. So any real-world application could be years away.
Nonetheless, it's a major step forward and incredibly interesting to boot.
Via Huffington Post