Tractor beams may soon be no longer fictional tools under the command of starship captains, as a team of researchers at the UK’s University of Bristol has managed to create a simple tractor beam out of easily obtainable parts. Check out the video above to learn how you can build your own for just over $70.



According to the University of Bristol, the concept for this tractor beam is much simpler than a recent sonic tractor beam that uses sound waves to trap and manipulate tiny objects. According to the recent paper published in Applied Physics Letters, this tractor beam design uses just one electric signal and a passive wave modulator.

As the University of Bristol notes: “The passive wave modulator is a type of acoustic lens that can alter the transmitted or reflected waves. The research team’s passive wave modulator can be made in various different ways. In one example it’s a collection of tubes with different lengths and in another it’s a carefully contoured surface. In both cases it can be 3D-printed using an off–the-shelf printer. Using a single waveform a static tractor beam can be created. If two waveforms are used then up and down manipulation of objects can be achieved.”

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According to research assistant and lead author of the paper, Asier Marzo, “The technique can generate an acoustic tractor beam using only a single electrical signal, this will reduce the cost and complexity of tractor beams making them a more affordable technology for manipulating and analyzing levitated samples. With our new research now everyone can have an acoustic tractor beam.”

The device is so simple, the university has released a YouTube video showing people how they can build their own tractor beam at home for just over $70. That’s a far cry from previous tractor beam technologies, which required phased arrays of more than 50 sound channels, with each made up of a signal generator and an amplifier.

Via University of Bristol

Video and image via University of Bristol, YouTube