Research ArticleOPTICS

Optical pulling at macroscopic distances

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Science Advances  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 3, eaau7814
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau7814


Optical tractor beams, proposed in 2011 and experimentally demonstrated soon after, offer the ability to pull particles against light propagation. It has attracted much research and public interest. Yet, its limited microscopic-scale range severely restricts its applicability. The dilemma is that a long-range Bessel beam, the most accessible beam for optical traction, has a small half-cone angle, θ0, making pulling difficult. Here, by simultaneously using several novel and compatible mechanisms, including transverse isotropy, Snell’s law, antireflection coatings (or impedance-matched metamaterials), and light interference, we overcome this dilemma and achieve long-range optical pulling at θ0 ≈ 1°. The range is estimated to be 14 cm when using ~1 W of laser power. Thus, macroscopic optical pulling can be realized in a medium or in a vacuum, with good tolerance of the half-cone angle and the frequency of the light.

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