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Tractor beams with optimal pulling force using structured waves

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posted on 2023-05-09, 16:00 authored by Michael Horodynski, Tobias Reiter, Matthias Kühmayer, Stefan Rotter
Moving objects with optical or acoustical waves is a topic both of fundamental interest and of importance for a range of practical applications. One particularly intriguing example is the tractor beam, which pulls an object toward the wave's source, in opposition to the wave's momentum. In this study, we introduce a protocol that enables the identification of wave states that produce the optimal tractor force for arbitrary objects. Our method relies solely on the solution of a simple eigenvalue problem involving the system's measurable scattering matrix. Using numerical simulations, we demonstrate the efficacy of this wavefront shaping protocol for a representative set of different targets. Moreover, we show that the diffractive nature of waves enables the possibility of a tractor beam, that works even for targets where a geometric optics approach fails to explain the pulling forces.

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