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Scientists created a real-life “Star Trek” tractor beam

cjmagowan  —  3 years ago ( Nov 02, 2015 )    |    Science, Technology


Science is making fictional technologies in film a reality, just think of the tractor beam which is popularized by Star Trek and Star Wars which is a beam of energy that can be used to move objects or make them stationary in space or in mid-air. What was seen a nothing but a work of our imagination is now becoming a reality with extensive research and experimentations thanks to a group of scientists from the University of Bristol and Sussex in collaboration with Ultrahaptics.

By using high-intensity sound waves from a miniature loudspeaker, the research team was able to move tiny objects and suspend them in mid-air. This new discovery will open new possibilities in the fields of healthcare and electronic manufacturing.

“We all know that sound waves can have a physical effect”

“But here we have managed to control the sound to a degree never previously achieved”

– Bruce Drinkwater, a professor of Ultrasonics at the University of Bristol.

“It was an incredible experience the first time we saw the object held in place by the tractor beam. All my hard work has paid off, it’s brilliant.”

– PhD student Asier Marzo

Previous design involves surrounding the object with loudspeakers in order to suspend them, but this limits the movement of such object. this time though, scientists has completely redesigned the concept and laid the tiny speakers on a flat surface. With high-intensity sound waves, the team has created a 3D hologram which allows them to manipulate the object in mid-air.


As scientists described the new technology, it’s a real invisible “force field” which seems like something from a science fiction movie that is now sounding more of a real-life working technology that could potentially pose a big impact on how we do things from here on.

While many advances in science and technology were inspired from the science-fiction movies in our lifetime, there’s still more that is needed in order to make such technology a viable tool for our daily lives and with further research and development, we will someday taste what is there living in the future where what was fiction back then is now a reality.