Star Wars: The Force Awakens just came out, and if you haven’t seen it, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. And of course, as they have been doing for the whole month, people are constantly talking about it. And that includes scientists, who are working out the physics behind building an actual lightsaber.
- Plasma would be a better fit for lightsabers than laser
- Plasma is the fourth state of matter, obtained after ionizing gases
- The most difficult part would be to store enough energy in the small hilt, without it overheating
- Plasma can be controlled with the use of electromagnetic fields
- The 20 megawatts estimated to power a lightsaber would be enough to power 14,000 American households for a while
In their talks about the building of an actual lightsaber, scientists have moved on from lasers quite a while back, as they don’t sport the right properties to actually be used in one’s construction.
Instead, they claim plasma is best suited for creating the elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
Plasma torches work by getting a couple of electrodes and connecting them to a source of flowing gas. The electrodes will the ionize the gas atoms, and turn it into plasma.
The same technology used in plasma torches could potentially be used to create a functioning lightsaber; however, there are other problems besides actual light part of the saber.
First of all, the power needed to power a lightsaber, able to cut through steel and basically anything else, is huge.
Sadly, we lack the technology to actually manage to create such a huge power source that would take up so little space.
The plasma would need to be hot enough to cut through metal, rocks, but it also wouldn’t have to pass through a different saber.
This would imply that enough power to fuel 14,000 American households would be very close to the wielder’s fingers.
So, a magnetic field would need to be employed in order to shape the weapon without letting it disperse, or go haywire, causing potentially fatal accidents.
Another issue would be preventing the hilt, which can provide so much energy, from scorching the users’ hand. So the hilt would either have to be made from something other than metal, or some other insulating technology would have to be employed.
Sadly, even though we made progress since 1977, we are still no closer to achieving the elegant, clean weapon that is the lightsaber.
Image source: Wikimedia