How Would a Real Star Wars Lightsaber Work?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What a great invention a real lightsaber gadget would be, right?

Being such a great fan of Star Wars and lightsabers in particular, I often use to ask myself whether lightsabers would be possible in the real world and if so, how would a real lightsaber work. I have always been under the belief that real-life lightsaber technology would be possible one day, just that it would not come on my lifetime.

As you know, a Star Wars lightsaber is made from plasma (not lasers) so the basic idea behind how a real lightsaber would work has always been to somehow contain heated plasma inside a very strong glass tube with a generator to keep the plasma heated. The problem with heated plasma though is that it's extremely hot so, the glass tube would have to be made of a material able to withstand heated plasma. As far as I know, there isn't such material that can withstand and insulate from thousands upon thousands of degrees centigrade of heat, other than Starlite. The problem though is that its inventor - Maurice Ward - passed away before revealing the composition of Starlite.

Fortunately, a lot of progress has been made in the realm of real lightsabers and it looks like the technology to make real lightsabers maybe closer than we think! Very brainy scientists have figured a way to clump photons into molecules to form matter that works just like the lightsabers in Star Wars. The scientists who have made this huge breakthrough in real lightsaber technology are professor Mikhail Lukin and professor Vladan Vuletic. According to them, when these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.

The other obvious choice that most people have considered to create real lightsabers is to use laser technology. However, the problem with laser is how do you contain it? See, an actual lasersaber beam would just shoot up to the sky unless something is placed in its way to absorb or reflect the beam. The actual point of making a real lightsaber is for it to have an actual blade length of a Jedi's lightsaber.

A few other issues with making a laser lightsaber would be how dangerous it would be (laser can actually cut through things). Powering the laser lightsaber with standard batteries also would not work, and the fact that a laser beam cannot be seen from the side is also a big issue.

I guess in the meanwhile we can content ourselves with the lightsabers available now in the market, which frankly are futuristic enough in their own right. There are even nifty lightsaber solutions out there, which allow you to custom made affordably your own lightsaber with electronics without the need of soldering nor expensive machinery. The actual metal parts come in different finishes allowing for countless of different design configurations, which you can modify in a three dimensional virtual saber builder workshop.

I cannot wait til December 17 when Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is finally released! For now, I leave you with this Star Wars Lightsaber battle from The Phantom Menace between Qui Gon Ginn and Darth Maul.

May the force be with you!

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