Star Trek-style 'tractor beam' created at university

Enterprise Tractor beams had previously been more common in science fiction programmes like Star Trek

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Scientists at Dundee University have created a working "tractor beam".

Normally the stuff of science fiction in Star Trek or Star Wars, physicists at the university used an ultrasound array to exert force on an object and pull it towards the energy source.

They say it is the first time such a beam has been used to move anything bigger than microscopic targets.

The technology could be put to use in medicine, helping to develop ultrasound-based clinical techniques.

Dundee researchers worked alongside colleagues in Southampton and Illinois on the project, the results of which have been published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

In another sci-fi inspired project, the same team from the university's Institute for Medical Science and Technology (Imsat) created a Doctor Who-style "sonic screwdriver", also using ultrasound.

Ultrasound device

"This is the first time anyone has demonstrated a working acoustic tractor beam and the first time such a beam has been used to move anything bigger than microscopic targets," said Dr Christine Demore of Imsat.

"We were able to show that you could exert sufficient force on an object around one centimetre in size to hold or move it, by directing twin beams of energy from the ultrasound array towards the back of the object."

The team used an ultrasound device that is already clinically approved for use in MRI-guided surgery.

The team's work was carried out as part of a £3.6m programme initiated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, combining expertise at four UK universities in Bristol, Dundee, Glasgow and Southampton with industrial firms.

Professor Sandy Cochran, of the University of Dundee, said: "Our partnership with industry has been vital to developing devices and capabilities that are delivering unprecedented sophistication in the field of ultrasound."

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  64.  
    Text 80295 08:52: Police firearms - Your views

    Heather, Edinburgh: You've heard of the saying 'I don't tell you how to do your job'. Police, nurses, firefighters do a great job. If anybody has a right to say whether police carry guns, it's them. They are on the frontline and should decide.

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  66.  
    Text 80295 08:35: Police firearms - Your views

    John in Fortingall: Please be careful how you describe this change. There will not be fewer armed police officers on duty. They will still be on armed patrols. It is just that they will not be attending routine calls, even if they are the closest resource. They will be reserved for specialist armed incident and threat to life duties only.

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  68.  
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  72.  
    08:02: Weather forecast BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Good morning, Kirsteen here. Mostly dry today during daylight hours, with some brightness & sunshine. S/W winds will strengthen along the west coast... reaching severe gale-force across the Western Isles, Skye & n/w coast. Gusts of up to 65mph. Rain will spread from the west later, too.

     
  73.  
    08:00: Welcome Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and a warm welcome from the Scotland Live team on Thursday 2 October as we bring you a comprehensive round up of news, sport, travel and weather between now and 18:00.

     

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