It turns out that the key to making things lighter than air is … light!
California scientists believe they have found a way to levitate objects using concentrated light – a theory that could even propel a spacecraft farther than ever before, according to a report.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology believe that by covering the surface of objects with nano-scale microscopic patterns specifically designed to interact with beams of light, they could be propelled without fuel – and potentially by light sources distant by several kilometers, according to Phys.org.
The results, detailed for the first time in the online scientific journal Nature Photonics, are already salivating scientists in front of potentially unusual applications. One of them could be the development of a spaceship that could reach the nearest planet outside our solar system in just 20 years. On the other hand, Voyager took about 26 years to leave our own solar system.
"There is a daringly interesting application to use this technique as a means of propelling a new generation of spacecraft," said Professor Harry Atwater, whose lab was the playground of the US. study funded by the US Air Force. "We are far from that, but we are testing the principles."
Because the concept would eliminate the need for fuel on board, spacecraft could travel lighter, faster and farther than ever before, according to Phys.org.
Back on Earth, the technology could accelerate the manufacture of small objects, such as printed circuit boards, said Atwater at the site.
The idea is, in essence, an application on a larger scale of decades-old "optical tweezers", which use the pressure of focused light beams to move small objects over short distances, according to the report.