Not exactly fusion in film. More like film-inspired plasma toys:
The Future Horizons, Inc. Plasma Saber
Rather more expensive than a plastic light-up toy lightsaber, but a lot cooler. I hope their red saber doesn’t use radon gas. :bug:
Unfortunately it looks like they’re all sold out.
$400, and they can’t take more than gentle impacts? You’d have to be in love with making swooshing sounds to pay that kind of bux.
It’s not the non-Lucasfilm swooshing sounds I like. But, yeah, I suppose it would be a lot cheaper to just buy neon lights. Or make your own plasma toys…
If it does a good job of duplicating the look of the movie prop and special effect, presumably that would qualify as similar enough for marketing copy. There are other lightsabers out there that look closer to the “real thing”, and have more authentic sound effects as well. They are licensed by Lucasfilm, of course. The more expensive are only half the cost as well, but I don’t believe they have a real plasma “blade”.
The Real Thing
As for the Real Thing, there are somewhat conflicting ideas out there about how a lightsaber works. The Star Wars novelization doesn’t offer much except that it has switches on the handle, a metal disk above the handle that is polished to a mirror brightness, and that there are several small, jewellike components built into both the handle and disk, including a power cell with a surprisingly high energy rating. This is supposedly a description of the Skywalker lightsaber, but I wonder if Alan Dean Foster (Lucas’ ghost writer) was using that prop or the Obi-Wan lightsaber prop for reference.
The Star Wars Technical Journal is cautiously terse as well, but gives a little more detail. The handle is “durasteel”, and it contains a power cell, faceted crystallite lenses, and a focusing core. The lightsaber blade is described as a “coherent beam” that bends back upon itself. This is consistent with the idea that the lightsaber blade is a laser beam, as are the frequent references to lightsaber crystals in Star Wars lore. (Also, the young Anakin refers to the lightsaber as a “laser sword”, but there’s no guarantee that the term used by a slave boy on Tatooine has any more scientific precision than the preferred, but more ambiguous term “lightsaber”.) The problem with lasers is that they go on for a lot more than a meter unless absorbed or reflected by a solid object. How a laser beam can be made to curve back on itself nearly 180° is a mystery to me. If I had to devise a concept, I’d say the lightsaber levitates a small mirror when activated, although I’m not sure how it would hold it in place.
I believe I’ve seen the lightsaber blade described as being composed of “pure energy”. According to my current understanding of physics, that is like saying something is composed of “pure movement”. Wookieepedia reaches a compromise by saying the lightsaber blade is composed of “pure plasma energy”.
I think a meter-long plasma torch makes more sense than a laser beam, but it still has problems, as the torch will have trouble holding its shape in the lightest breeze, not to mention when it’s being swung about. Some sort of magnetic confinement may work, and Wookieepedia does mention that the lightsaber generates a “strong gyroscopic effect”. However, I have trouble seeing what magnetic geometry would allow the blade to be magnetically confined from the handle. Another possibility is that the lightsaber blade generates its own magnetic field like a Z-pinch device, but it’s still missing an electrode at the tip, and I think a vacuum tube would be necessary as well.
Wookieepedia’s compromise on the blade containment issue is that the plasma blade is confined by a “force containment field”, and that the field forces the blade to curve back on itself “to a negatively charged fissure ringing the emitter”. I’m not sure if that’s a Force containment field, but if it is it presumably doesn’t require operation by an able Force user, or Han Solo would have had a bit of trouble slicing that Tauntaun open.
Now, gradually getting back to reality, for some reason I’m starting to see some kind of a relationship between how the Star Wars lightsaber supposedly works and the plasma sheath produced in a plasma focus device. Of course, the curvature is not nearly as extreme as what you’d need for a lightsaber, but perhaps it’s a start.
More Realistic Schemes
Michio Kaku in Physics of the Impossible has his own idea for a lightsaber. His idea is that the lighsaber handle contains a narrow telescoping tube perforated with holes. When the lightsaber is activated the tube telescopes out and releases plasma through the holes.
Viewed from the present perspective, the lightsaber seems like an impractical weapon, as missile weapons have far outpaced advances in armor, and it doesn’t look like armor will ever get the advantage back. Should advances in armor increase the importance of melee weapons, however, there is a more practical design for a plasma sword, with the hilt and the flat of the blade being composed of solid material, and plasma forming only the cutting edge. The lightsaber has the advantage that its cutting edge is at all angles, although the plasma sword could perhaps be several blades intersecting along the axis to achieve the same advantage. The plasma sword, however, has the advantage that it pretty much already exists, albeit in a smaller form: the plasma scalpel.
The lightsaber blade was originally going to be white (not a very coherent color), but the decision to contrast the colors of Darth Vader’s and Obi-Wan’s lightsaber blades was made in post-production of Star Wars. In post-production of Return of the Jedi the blue skies of “Tatooine” required another contrasting color. The Prequels and other additions to Star Wars lore have introduced numerous colors beyond blue, red, and green.
According to Star Wars lore the color of the lightsaber blade is determined by the sort of crystals used in the handle. The lore is pretty consistent on that point. However, since the blades are supposed to be plasma in current lore, I like to think that the composition of the plasma is mostly what determines the color. Maybe Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in Return of the Jedi had a boron plasma blade. :coolsmirk:
well you could make a laser turn 180 degrees with meta materials and the best would probable be plasmon based meta materials with a VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) but how to get it work in without something to keep it in place it hard to imagine. and it still wouldn’t interferer with another sword. there have been some experaments that can get laser light to bend or twist with some modification to the emitter but it still wouldn’t get the effect of the light saber.
another idea is to use two or more lasers to create multiple small plasma explosions in the shape of a meter long blade. this is basically the pass system or plasma acoustic shield system.
http://orbitalvector.com/Defenses/PASS/PLASMA ACOUSTIC SHIELD SYSTEM.htm
And then you need to put a FF reactor to power it all (in the handle?) 🙂
Perhaps, with sufficient advances in capacitor and other technologies, a FF device could fit into a lightsaber handle in the not-too-distant future.
I recently had yet another idea, inspired by the Polywell. The handle creates an electron shaft, and the ions cluster around it. Of course, confining the electron shaft is still a problem without external magnets. Perhaps if the electrons could be expelled straight out, slow down, and then be pulled straight back, you could create a blade with a fixed length. However, it would still behave much like a plasma torch without some solid component extending from the handle.
Back to the power source, I found a set of videos in which Michio Kaku expands on his ideas. Incidentally, he covers a lot of the same ideas I went over, but differs in some ways. For instance, he proposes a titanium fan at the base of the handle to draw in the air that will become the plasma. For some reason I had pictured the plasma as coming from a source inside the lightsaber handle, but this idea is more practical, as you don’t have to worry about cramming a gas canister into your crowded handle and then worrying about how long it will last. One possible drawback to this idea: the lightsaber won’t work in a vacuum. But how often do you need to have a lightsaber battle in a vacuum? For the power source Michio Kaku proposes carbon nanotube batteries:
Ivy Matt wrote: Perhaps, with sufficient advances in capacitor and other technologies, a FF device could fit into a lightsaber handle in the not-too-distant future.
I don’t know…the Force? :cheese: