Researchers from St Andrews demonstrated that the microscopic-scale apparatus could pull tiny particles suspended in water towards it via a beam of light, rather than push them away as would normally happen.
Although scientists have been able to manipulate light in various ways for decades, the experts claim they are the first to build a “tractor beam” which works of its own accord and does not require help from a computer to “trap” objects before shifting them.
Sadly for sci-fi enthusiaststhetechnique, detailed in the Nature Photonics journal, has only been proven to work on a particle five microns wide, and can not be scaled up to suck in spaceships because too powerful a laser would be required.
Dr Tomas Cizmar, who led the study, explained: “The problem is that this is based on the transfer of momentum between photons (light particles) and the object, and unavoidably there is also a transfer of energy.
“If you imagine you would like to attract a football, the amount of energy it would transfer would be huge and it would immediately burn up the football.
“We can probably go further but at some point theheatingupwouldbeahugeproblem.”