Feeds

NASA funds laser tractor beam research

Shifting particles, not the Enterprise, using SciFi staple

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA has awarded a $100,000 grant to three boffins who are investigating a tractor beam trifecta.

Principal Investigator Paul Stysley and team members Demetrios Poulios and Barry Coyle at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center received the grant to research three methods of using lasers to collect particulate samples without the need for touch, which could contaminate the collected material.

"Though a mainstay in science fiction, and Star Trek in particular, laser-based trapping isn't fanciful or beyond current technological know-how," Stysley said in a statement. "The original thought was that we could use tractor beams for cleaning up orbital debris, but to pull something that huge would be almost impossible - at least now. That's when it bubbled up that perhaps we could use the same approach for sample collection."

One of the methods under study uses "optical tweezers" – two counter-propagating beams of light. This is already in use in a limited way and adjusts the strength of the two beams to move particles within the ring-like structure created by the beams, via the heat that those beams generates. While promising, this technique does require an atmosphere in which to work, making it unsuitable for many missions.

The second technique, which has been tested in the laboratory, uses optical solenoid beams – which the boffins define as "those whose intensity peaks spiral around the axis of propagation" – to pull particles towards the light source using electromagnetic effects. This technique will work in a vacuum, making it suitable for deep space missions.

The third technique is entirely theoretical at this point, but uses Bessel beams to induce electrical or magnetic fields within particulates, and use those to propel them.

"We want to make sure we thoroughly understand these methods," Coyle said. "We have hope that one of these will work for our purposes. We're at the starting gate on this. This is a new application that no one has claimed yet." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.