How close are we to building a real lightsaber?

Ever wished you owned a real lightsaber to smite your enemies with? The internet is way ahead of you.

Elsa Vulliamy
Monday 21 December 2015 13:27
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Characters wielding lightsabers take to the stage to promote Star Wars: The Old Republic at E3 in 2009
Characters wielding lightsabers take to the stage to promote Star Wars: The Old Republic at E3 in 2009

Safe to say, most of us would like to own a lightsaber. Some people take this desire more seriously than others, and several physicists and engineers have set about making the dream of millions of Star Wars fans come true.

The lightsabers in the Star Wars films are made of plasma blades powered the fictional Kyber Cystal. Plasma is the lesser known fourth state of matter (along with solid, liquid and gas), and can be created in a lab by removing the electrons from gaseous atoms.

According to particle physicist and Star Wars fan Don Lincoln writing for Scientific American, it is possible to contain plasma using magnetic fields, and thereby create a concentrated beam.

Unfortunately, this mechanism is not without its problems. In order to be able to effortlessly melt through things like steel and aliens, the plasma blade would need to have an enormous amount of energy- about 20 megawatts to melt steel – enough to power 14,000 households before the battery ran out.

That’s definitely hot enough to burn your hand. Also, the blades would pass straight through each other – cool lightsaber sword fights wouldn’t actually be a thing.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people have cheated – abandoning plasma blades for some stuff that’s slightly easier to work with.

An American YouTuber, who says that he likes to “make pretend things into real things” claims to have created a lightsaber that actually works.

Allen Pan, an engineer who runs the channel ‘Sufficiently Advanced’ previously made headlines when he made a ‘real’ version of the Thor’s Mjolnir that only he could lift using an electromagnet which locks the hammer to the ground, and fingerprint scanning technology which deactivates this function when the hammer’s creator tries to life it.

For his next trick, Pan has created a real life Star Wars-style lightsaber, complete with sound effects, and has demonstrated it on his YouTube channel by using it to cut Stormtrooper balloons and set fire to a photo of Jar Jar Binks. It can also light a cigarette.

Pan’s contraption is impressive, but not all were convinced that he has really created a lightsaber.

His new toy can’t technically cut through things, but rather just sets them alight. As one YouTube commenter said: “In search of lightsaber, inventor creates flamesaber.”

Pan’s ‘lightsaber’ is really a very large coloured lighter that can set fire to lots of things things. Still cool – but not a lightsaber.

All the way back in 2012, a group of Star Wars superfans created the ‘lasersaber’, which is made from an Arctic Spyder 3 laser.

The main problem with this is that these lasers are extremely dangerous. For a start, they can blind you - you have to wear special laser goggles when using them.

As well as this, they have the power to seriously burn just about anything, including the skin. They also put you at risk of cancer.

Unsurprisingly, you can get in serious legal trouble for using these products outside of a controlled environment, although it is legal to buy them online.

Those are the cons. The pros? They’re very pretty. The green and blue blade can ‘power up’ and ‘power down in a very familiar way. Burning things with lasers can also be fun, even if it is a pretty bad idea.

LucasFilm felt the need to make it very clear that they had no connection to these lasers, which were advertised by the people who make them as “the most dangerous laser ever created”.

If looking cool is what you’re actually concerned with - and it probably is - and you generally want to avoid fire (and cancer), UltraSaber has your back.

These sabers can be made to light up in four different colours, have pulse effects. They also have a ‘Flash on Clash’ function and sound effects, meaning you and a friend can have realistic lightsaber fights without putting yourselves in any danger.

UltraSabers are pretty safe, and you don’t have to be in a contained environment to use them. If you can let go of your desire to burn things, these are probably your best bet.

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