Engineers Build Retractable Lightsaber That Cuts Through Steel Like Butter

Concept photo of a lightsaber. Charles-Edouard Cote / Shutterstock

Being stuck at home during the pandemic has led to people finding some pretty crazy ways to pass the time, like this 12-year-old kid who built his own nuclear fusor. But the winners might have to be the engineers from the Hacksmith on Youtube, who have created a fully retractable, color-changing lightsaber that cuts through metal like it’s butter.

The Hacksmith demonstrate their latest technology. Credit: The Hacksmith

The plasma-powered saber burns at a toasty 2,200°C (4,000°F). Owing to a special nozzle, the plasma shoots out of the handle in an almost-perfect recreation of the Star Wars lightsabers.

Whilst technically a ‘protosaber’ instead of a lightsaber due to it relying on an external power pack and not some tiny infinite energy source within the handle, this feat was the product of four years’ work by the engineers. Earlier attempts heated long tungsten rods to extreme temperatures. However, “the internet is never pleased,” according to the Hacksmith and so they set out to create a version that retracts and extends like the sci-fi originals.

The latest lightsaber features a specialized laminar nozzle that produces a laminar flow (a smooth flow of liquid or gas with little or no mixing) of compressed liquid propane gas. Heated to high temperatures and highly concentrated, the gas becomes a circular beam of glowing plasma that looks like a lightsaber. Whilst the technology is currently used mainly in glass blowing, becoming a lightsaber is the upgrade it certainly deserves.

Slashing through steel, the saber is capable of some impressive feats. However, it isn’t a lightsaber without the characteristic colors to define what side of the force you’re on. Luckily, the Hacksmith have even got that covered. By introducing different salts, the flowing plasma glows with vibrant colors including green, orange, and red. Should you wish to be everyone’s favorite miniature Jedi Yoda, boric acid will burn bright green. Leaning more to the dark side, calcium chloride (commonly known as salt) will give you a red-orange.

James Hobson, team lead for the engineers, states that you can “count on one hand the number of people working on lightsaber tech” right now, so this will probably have to sate your Star Wars appetite for now. Even so, a working lightsaber in this day and age is more than enough for us.

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