Star Wars 40 years on: is it possible to make a lightsaber?

The lightsaber is surely the most iconic object in the Star Wars saga. But with modern technology, is it possible to make a real one? Some DIY enthusiasts have tried with a degree of success… watch out for your eyes!

In this case, “watch out for your eyes” is an appropriate expression, as handling lasers is potentially not without consequence. It can even be very dangerous when you’re trying to make an object that will replicate a traditional Star Wars lightsaber.

Styropyro is a YouTuber who describes himself as being fascinated by all types of lasers. He is therefore, of course, very interested in making lightsabers. In 2014, he posted a video of himself with a 6W laser sword. This is his most popular video, with more than 6.2 million views.

When handling his creation, the YouTuber takes numerous precautions, starting with protective glasses, as looking directly at a laser can seriously damage your eyes. You are advised to not look directly at the kind of laser pointers you might use for playing with cats, so imagine a laser that is hundreds of times more powerful, capable of setting paper and cardboard alight and piercing certain materials.

In 2015, the YouTube channel “Sufficiently Advanced” presented its own model, which was aesthetically closer to the movie models and featured the associated sound effects. What’s more, this version didn’t feature any lasers but instead used gas. A long flame comes out of the handle, which could again prove highly dangerous!

Is it impossible to make a lightsaber like the ones in the movies?

There are currently a significant number of lightsaber prototypes that are more or less successful and close to the original. However, none of them is quite the real deal, because that would be impossible!

Why? As explained by Don Lincoln, an American researcher who specializes in energy, the blade of the Star Wars lightsaber is essentially a plasma torch, a gas in which the atoms have lost one or more of their electrons. Once heated, plasma can cut through metal or concrete like a lightsaber. But the problem is that in order to do this, the blade would need to maintain a constant temperature of 10,000 degrees, which would make it impossible to hold the torch for a long period… and then there’s the question of self-sufficiency! It would be impossible to sustain ignition long term without an adequate power supply. This would greatly limit movement in a battle.

Astonishingly, the question of making a lightsaber has often been a subject of study by scientists. However, each time the issue is investigated, they come up against the same constraints: the need for a temperature that is far too high for hand-held use, and the need for a huge power source. There’s also the issue of solidity, which would never be sufficient for a clash between two lightsabers!

The lightsabers used by the Jedi will therefore remain an object of science-fiction fantasy for the foreseeable future. But this won’t stop us from dreaming, and admiring the creations of inventive DIYers!

Audrey Oeillet

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