Australian scientists have created the world's first water tractor beam which they hope can be used to clean up oil spills.
Physicists at the Australian National University have created certain wave patterns in water that pull objects on the surface towards the source of the waves.
It is hoped the tractor beam would be developed to assist in removing objects adrift on the surface of the ocean.
Dr Horst Punzmann is part of the team behind the design.
"A tractor beam is a popular term which, I think it captures quite well the basic principal," he said.
"You put an object there and it propagates, it floats backwards to the source of the wave."
However, the physicists had been doubtful at first.
"First I thought it was impossible and I thought that it was the effect of the boundaries nearby," said Professor Michael Shats, a colleague of Dr Punzmann.
"So the first idea was to build a bigger tank. We did, and it worked."
Despite this, the scientists have admitted they did not fully understand how it worked.
"We have a fair idea, we can generate different flows at will, [but] there's a lot more work to be done to explore that," Dr Punzmann said.
"Individual objects that you want to push forward or backward or in a broader context.
"The ability to move films on the ocean, like oil films... would be an opportunity."
The device also required only a low amount of energy.
"The power requirements for the wave maker are relatively small because we generate only the motion in the top layer," Professor Shats said.