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Creation of a Real Lightsaber

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  • Travis Wade

Creating real-life sci-fi technology

How might technology from popular sci-fi culture “Star Wars” be created in the near future?

Technology comes from the thoughts of scientists and inventors, and imagination of science fiction writers. Throughout the sci-fi universes, whether in books or movies, they all have futuristic or even impossible sounding equipment. These large fandoms have set the bar for the future of technology and science, as their imagination to create these science-fiction pieces of technology, is based on what may be possible in the future. From the massive fandom and universe; such as Star Wars, the technology that could only be dreamed of, could one day become a reality. Many new scientific and technological discoveries and creations were first thought up by a writer, trying to sell a few books or even get a movie deal, and were since theorised by scientists to be possible.

In the widely popular and extensively imagined universe of Star Wars, the main protagonists and antagonists, "The Jedi and The Sith”, use special weapons known as a Lightsaber. Lightsabers are specially made close combat weapons, imagined as a futuristic sword-like weapon, that have a small hilt and a retractable laser blade, capable of cutting through almost everything.

In the Star Wars universe, the Lightsaber was made with a powerful battery cell, a focusing crystal and was imbued with the force, as shown in figure 1:

http://www.modernjediknight.com/images/saberinsides%5b1%5d.jpg

(Figure 1, components of a Lightsaber)

In real life, the possibilities of creating a Lightsaber are quite real, should a large jump in current technologies spontaneously happen.

To create the blade of the Lightsaber, many a thought would be directed immediately towards a high powered laser, however, a highly charged beam of plasma would be more suitable, and easier to harness. Current technologies, such as a plasma cutter, produce super-heated plasma to cut many materials. To create plasma, a plasma cutter feeds inert gas through an electric arc, which is then sped up and released through a small hole to increase the temperature of the plasma. The plasma would need to be propelled to about 1.2 metres, (average length of a Lightsaber) and then the plasma would need to dissipate, as to not create a beam that continues through space. If the plasma beam were to arc around at the end of the beam, return to the hilt of the Lightsaber, and arc back around through the electric arc, which would repower it, as it goes back out, creating a plasma circuit.

The width of the beam, an important area in the eyes of a true Star Wars fan, can be controlled due to a powerful magnetic field would need to be employed, to also ensure that the Lightsaber bounces off other Lightsabers, due to the repulsion of the magnetic field. Magnets would create a magnetic field, via Lorentz forces, that would separate the plasma from the chamber, preventing the plasma from melting the “hilt”. Lorentz forces are the combination of electric and magneticforceson apoint chargedue to electromagnetic fields. Lorentz forces would come into effect, as the plasma arcs around the and back through the electric arc. The electrically charged magnets would create the electric field, and should the magnets be powerful enough, the electromagnetic forces could extend to a distance great enough to channel the plasma into the specific blade shape.

A powerful battery or power cell will be needed to keep the electric arc running and powering the plasma. The current apex of battery technology is the “aluminium graphite battery”, which has been created by scientists at Stanford University, which can recharge a phone in 60 seconds. If the aluminium graphite battery was used to keep an electric arc inside a Lightsaber hilt running long enough to recharge the plasma.

The fuel for creating the plasma is usually nitrogen gas in a plasma cutter. The Nitrogen gas would need to be held in a canister inside the Lightsaber hilt, while also being able to refill it. Nitrogen gas is appropriate as the fuel for the plasma arc, as Nitrogen is sufficiently unstable, and viable to charge from an electric arc, due to nitrogen having only 5 valence electrons. Because Nitrogen only has 5 valence electrons, there is a large electromagnetic force attracting other electrons, and therefore, more energy from the electric arc.

The creation of a Lightsaber from the universe of Star Wars; is not currently possible with the level of technology and scientific understandings. However, in the near future, with a leap in the scientific understanding and practical uses of energy and plasma, such as projecting plasma into space or creating an electric field capable of being directed away from magnets, a real Lightsaber may be possible, should a scientist with the required research and funding be adventurous enough to create one. Until then, a Lightsaber will remain as just science fiction, and stay as just a fantasy that could one day be a reality.

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