Just as air causes lift on the wings of an aeroplane, light can do the same trick, researchers have said.
The effect, first shown in simulations, was proven by showing it in action on tiny glass rods.
Like the aerofoil concept of wings, the approach, published in Nature Photonics, works by making use of the radiation pressure of light.
The results are of interest for steering "solar sails", a spacecraft propulsion based on the same force.
Each photon - or packet of light - carries its own momentum, and this "lightfoil" works by gathering the momentum of light as it passes through a material.
This radiation pressure has been considered as a fuel-free source of propulsion for long-distance space missions; a "solar sail" gathering up the momentum of the Sun's rays can get a spacecraft up to a significant fraction of the speed of light.
But until now, no one thought to use the pressure in an analogue of an aerofoil, said Grover Swarzlander of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). ...
via BBC News - 'Lightfoil' idea shows light can provide lift.