Tractor beam breakthrough could lead to levitating humans – CNET


A styrofoam particle of 1.6cm (1.88 wavelengths of sound) trapped in the center of a “tornado” of ultrasonic waves.

University of Bristol

Tractor beams have made the jump from science fiction to reality in recent years, but only for levitating very small objects. A new breakthrough could lead to futuristic, far out new uses for the technology and open the door to levitating much larger objects, including humans.

Engineers from the University of Bristol have been able to trap (essentially levitate) objects using an acoustic tractor beam that is larger than the wavelengths of sound used by the device.

“Acoustic researchers had been frustrated by the size limit for years, so it’s satisfying to find a way to overcome it. I think it opens the door to many new applications,” Asier Marzo from Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said in a release. Marzo is lead author on a paper published Monday in the journal Physical Review Letters

Those applications could include touchless control of drug capsules or micro-surgical implements inside the human body using sonic tractor beams. It could also become possible to move and manipulate fragile items in a whole new way.