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Negative radiation pressure in light could make some tractor beams real, we're already sucked in

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 23, 2012
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Developing a real, working tractor beam has regularly been an exercise in frustration: it often relies on brute force attempts to induce a magnetic link or an air pressure gap, either of which falls a bit short of science fiction-level elegance. The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Mordechai Segev has a theory that would use the subtler (though not entirely movie-like) concept of negative radiation pressure in light to move objects. By using materials that have a negative refraction index, where the light photons and their overall wave shape move in opposite directions, Segev wants to create a sweet spot where negative radiation pressure exists and an object caught in the middle can be pushed around. His early approach would use extremely thin crystals stacked in layers to manipulate the refraction. As it's theorized, the technology won't be pulling in the Millennium Falcon anytime soon -- the millimeters-wide layer intervals dictate the size of what can be pulled. Nonetheless, even the surgery-level tractor beams that Segev hopes will ultimately stem from upcoming tests would bring us much closer to the future that we've always wanted.

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