Physicists at The Australian National University have created a tractor beam on water, providing a radical new technique that could confine oil spills, manipulate floating objects or explain rips at the beach.
The group, led by Professor Michael Shats, discovered they can control water flow patterns with simple wave generators, enabling them to move floating objects at will.
“We have figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave,” said Dr Horst Punzmann, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering, who led the project.
“No one could have guessed this result,” he said.
The new technique gives scientists a way of controlling things adrift on water in a way they have never had before, resembling sci-fi tractor beams that draw in objects.