1Harbin Institute of Technology, Department of Physics, Harbin, China
2National University of Singapore, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Singapore
Usually, an unfocused light beam, such as a paraxial Gaussian beam, can exert a force on an object along the direction of light propagation, which is known as light pressure. Recently, however, it was found that an unfocused light beam can also exert an optical pulling force (OPF) on an object toward the source direction; the beam is accordingly named an optical tractor beam. In recent years, this intriguing force has attracted much attention and a huge amount of progress has been made both in theory and experiment. We briefly review recent progress achieved on this topic. We classify the mechanisms to achieve an OPF into four different kinds according to the dominant factors. The first one is tailoring the incident beam. The second one is engineering the object’s optical parameters. The third one is designing the structured material background, in which the light–matter interaction occurs, and the fourth one is utilizing the indirect photophoretic force, which is related to the thermal effect of light absorption. For all the methods, we analyze the basic principles and review the recent achievements. Finally, we also give a brief conclusion and an outlook on the future development of this field.