Can light move things?
Current solar cells are too weak to have the sun power our cars, unless you plan on putting panels on a whole semi truck that is.
What about without the specialized cells — can things be moved then?
Yale thinks that you can.
Researchers who hale from the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science have shown that the force of light indeed can be harnessed to drive machines. For now there is just one catch: it only works when the process is scaled to nano-proportions.
The devices all run on semiconductors that harness the weak force of light and translate it into energy for motion.
So, how far are we from having the dream of many a science fiction writer come true? Well, it could be a while.
“While the force of light is far too weak for us to feel in everyday life, we have found that it can be harnessed and used at the nanoscale,” said team leader Hong Tang, assistant professor at Yale. “Our work demonstrates the advantage of using nano-objects as “targets” for the force of light — using devices that are a billion-billion times smaller than a space sail, and that match the size of today’s typical transistors.”
So, what could this technology be used to do once it grows up a bit?
Well the current target categories include devices that are designed for information processing and sensing devices, as well as telecommunications that run at ultra-high speed and consume little power.
I bet you are wondering how this is different than current solar technologies. Well, lets go back to the expert for that answer.
“When researchers talk about optical forces, they are generally referring to the radiation pressure light applies in the direction of the flow of light,” said Tang. “The new force we have investigated actually kicks out to the side of that light flow.” The researchers showed that when the concentrated light was guided through a nanoscale mechanical device, significant light force could be generated — enough, in fact, to operate nanoscale machinery on a silicon chip.