Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) say they have found a way to float and move objects only with light – but the work remains theoretical for the time being.
They hope the technique could be used for "trajectory control of ultralight spacecraft and even laser-powered light sails for space exploration," as published in the journal Nature Photonics [Montag] [Montag19659003] That means no fuel is needed – just a powerful laser that fired from the earth onto a spacecraft.
The Caltech scientists developed the so-called "Photonic Levitation and Propulsion" system by designing a complex pattern that could be etched into an etching system. The surface of the object.
The way the concentrated light beam reflected from the etch causes the object to "self-stabilize," they say, while trying to stay within the focused laser beam.
The first breakthrough that laid the foundations for the new research was the development of "optical tweezers" ̵
The big drawback: You can only edit small objects only on the microphone roscopic distances.
Ognjen Ilic, a postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the new study, presents the tweezers concept and its limitations in much simpler terms: "You can float a ping-pong ball out of a hair dryer with a steady stream of air," he said in one Statement.
"But it would not work if the ping-pong ball was too big or too far away from the hair dryer, and so on."
The Caltech researchers argue in the paper that they have light The manipulation could theoretically work with an object of any size, from microns to the size of a spaceship.
Although the theory in the real world has not yet been tested, the researchers say they could send a spaceship off the nearest star if they swing out our solar system in just 20 years.
"There is a bold and interesting application to use this technique as a means of propelling a new generation of spacecraft," said Harry Atwater, a professor at Caltech's Engineering and Applied Science Department.
"We are far from doing that, but we are testing the principles."
This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.