New concept for tractor beam from Star Wars developed

November 27, 2018

Physicists from ITMO University developed a model of an optical tractor beam to capture particles based on new artificial materials. Such a beam is capable of moving particles or cells towards the radiation source. The study showed that hyperbolic metasurfaces are promising for experiments on creating the tractor beam, as well as for its practical applications. The results are published in ACS Photonics.

The tractor beams are familiar to many thanks to the Star Wars, Star Trek series and countless pictures of a UFO kidnaping a cow. Yet scientists are trying to obtain such beams in reality, and there are already several ways to make objects move towards a source of light. So far, however, these objects are represented by small particles and atoms instead of whole cows.

Researchers from ITMO University recently suggested using metamaterials to create such tractor beams. Metamaterials are artificial periodic structures with unusual optical properties consisting of repetitive elements. For instance, metamaterials can support hyperbolic modes: special states of the electromagnetic field arising when the metamaterial interacts with light. Such states help to control the optical forces that influence objects on the material surface, and, as it turns out, can help to move particles towards the light source.

"Our work is fully devoted to creating the tractor beams based on meta-surfaces as well as to studying the physics behind it. We found out that this effect appears due to the propagation of hyperbolic modes in metamaterials. Such modes act as an additional scattering channel and, according to the law of conservation of momentum, can push the particle in the direction of the light source. At the same time, metamaterials have a number of other advantages compared with alternative methods of obtaining the tractor beam. Therefore, metasurfaces are more convenient for practical use," says Alexander Shalin, the head of the International Laboratory "Nano-optomechanics" at ITMO University.

In 2016, scientists from ITMO University proposed another model of the tractor beam based on plasmon resonance and propagating surface plasmon waves: oscillations of the electron gas near the metal surface. The flat substrate allowed researchers to work with the entire surface of the material instead of small areas, as in classical plasmon tweezers. However, the new work showed that metamaterials based on flat structures that support both hyperbolic and plasmon modes can become an even better basis for the tractor beams. Metasurfaces and metamaterials work with light in the entire visible wavelength range and better cope with energy losses. All this makes them promising for the experimental implementation of the tractor beams.

"In future works we plan to conduct experiments for obtaining the tractor beams. This is a mandatory step towards the practical application of this phenomenon. Despite the fact that in the near future this technology will not help us to attract spaceships and kidnap cows, it still can be used, for example, to create special traps for particles and cells or to conduct chemical reactions selectively," notes Alexandra Ivinskaya, the first author of the article from the International Laboratory "Nano-optomechanics" at ITMO University.-end-

Optomechanical Manipulation with Hyperbolic Metasurfaces
A.Ivinskaya et al.
ACS Photonics 17 October

ITMO University

Related Metamaterials Articles from Brightsurf:

Hyperbolic metamaterials exhibit 2T physics
According to Igor Smolyaninov of the University of Maryland, ''One of the more unusual applications of metamaterials was a theoretical proposal to construct a physical system that would exhibit two-time physics behavior on small scales.''

Origami metamaterials show reversible auxeticity combined with deformation recoverability
New research by Northwestern Engineering and Georgia Institute of Technology expands the understanding of origami structures, opening possibilities for mechanical metamaterials to be used in soft robotics and medical devices.

Temporal aiming with temporal metamaterials
Achieving a controllable manipulation of electromagnetic waves is important in many applications.

VR and AR devices at 1/100 the cost and 1/10,000 the thickness in the works
Professor Junsuk Rho of the departments of mechanical engineering and chemical engineering and doctoral student in mechanical engineering Gwanho Yoon at POSTECH with the research team at Korea University have jointly developed moldable nanomaterials and a printing technology using metamaterials, allowing the commercialization of inexpensive and thin VR and AR devices.

Virtualized metamaterials opens door for acoustics application and beyond
Scientists from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have realized what they called a virtualized acoustic metamaterial, in digitizing material response to an impulse response stored in a software program.

In acoustic waves, engineers break reciprocity with 'spacetime-varying metamaterials'
Working in an emerging field known to as 'spacetime-varying metamaterials,' University at Buffalo engineers have demonstrated the ability to break reciprocity in acoustic waves.

Induced flaws in metamaterials can produce useful textures and behavior
A new Tel Aviv University study shows how induced defects in metamaterials -- artificial materials the properties of which are different from those in nature -- also produce radically different consistencies and behaviors.

Researchers use metamaterials to create two-part optical security features
Researchers have developed advanced optical security features that use a two-piece metamaterial system to create a difficult-to-replicate optical phenomenon.

Artificial intelligence (AI) designs metamaterials used in the invisibility cloak
The research group of Prof. Junsuk Rho, Sunae So and Jungho Mun of Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Chemical Engineering at POSTECH developed a design with a higher degree of freedom which allows to choose materials and to design photonic structures arbitrarily by using Deep Learning.

Scientists take a 'metamaterials' approach to earthquake damage
At the SSA 2019 Annual Meeting, seismologists from around the world will discuss how metamaterial theory might be applied to everything from developing deflective barriers to manipulating the layout of buildings within a city as a way to minimize the impact of damaging surface seismic waves.

Read More: Metamaterials News and Metamaterials Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to