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The remarkable feat was achieved by physicists working at the universities of Bristol, Glasgow and Southampton.
The light was controlled using holograms specially designed with ''knot theory'' - a branch of abstract mathematics inspired by twists in shoelaces and rope.The breakthrough paves the way for a new level of precision in laser technology, with applications ranging from traffic speed guns to height measurement.
Dr Mark Dennis, from the University of Bristol, said: ''In a light beam, the flow of light through space is similar to water flowing in a river.
''Although it often flows in a straight line - out of a torch, laser pointer, etc - light can also flow in whirls and eddies, forming lines in space called 'optical vortices'.