It is hoped it could have medical applications by targeting and attracting individual cells.
The research, published in Nature Photonics and led by the University of St Andrews, is limited to moving microscopic particles.
In science fiction programmes such as Star Trek, tractor beams are used to move much more massive objects.
It is not the first time science has aimed to replicate the feat - albeit at smaller scales.
In 2011, researchers from China and Hong Kong showed how it might be done with laser beams of a specific shape - and the US space agency Nasa has even funded a study to examine how the technique might help with manipulating samples in space.