Great news for all the die hard Star Wars fans out there! Inhabitat is the shiznit! Scientist Don Lincoln wrote an article for Space.com investigating the science behind the famous lightsaber. The way a real-life lightsaber would work is not what most movie goers probably have in mind.
So the question is, what technology could create a 4-foot long glowing blade that is hot enough to cut through steel blast doors? Lasers seem like the most plausible answer, but Lincoln points out that not only do lasers not have a fixed length, but unless particles in the air scatter the light, laser beams are actually invisible.
The senior scientist points out plasma as a potential source of the lightsaber’s trademark glow and unique abilities. Plasma is not that hard to find; we encounter it every day. It’s the source of light used in fluorescent tubes and neon lights. Plasma torches harness a high voltage of ionised gas to cut through conductive materials. However, since the involved technologies are based on ultra-heated gas, there would have to be some kind of magnetic field in place to contain the plasma and form it into the signature shape of a lightsaber blade.
Lincoln writes that if there are two magnetically contained tubes of plasma, they’d pass right through one another. To combat this, sabres should have a solid core. He proposes a ceramic core, which could be heated to extremely high temperatures without melting and would spring out from the hilt in a similar way to the plastic blades used in many toy lightsabres.
So, maybe real-life lightsabres are possible! But there are a few more issues that aren’t so easily solved. First, is the heat given off by the very powerful plasma beam which would burn the hands of anyone wielding it. The second issue is the superheated plasma would take large amounts of energy to run. Lincoln estimates that the amount of power used in one short lightsabre fight sequence could power 14,000 average American homes. Obviously no battery exists today that can supply that much power. Even if it did exist you would have to take a whole power plant with you.
The article Lincoln wrote supports the possible existence of real-life sabres but the technology to make it happen simply doesn’t exist yet. Are we going to see the technology anytime soon? Probably not in our lifetime.