The Canadian YouTube channel “The Hacksmith” has been working for years to build a real lightsaber like one from the Star Wars films. Now the company has come a considerable step closer to the dream of many science fiction fans.
“The Hacksmith” is one of the largest so-called “Maker” channels on YouTube. The company was founded by engineer James Hobson and is mainly concerned with turning science fiction technology known from films into reality.
Already Experience Building Lightsabers
The company has already experimented with working lightsabers, but they have received a lot of criticism online. These are so-called “Proto-Saber”, which I will freely translate at this point as Proto-Lightsaber. Because for their lightsaber, the YouTubers used highly heated nitinol wire in version one and a rod with a tungsten-titanium alloy in version two. Both variants were made to glow by the high temperature. This allows you to cut through all sorts of objects, but the “blade” cannot be retracted – as with a “real” lightsaber.
The engineers at The Hacksmith therefore thought about how they could make an extendable and retractable lightsaber a reality. The solution: a new design.
Plasma instead of Metal for the Blade
The new lightsaber is still a proto-lightsaber, because a real lightsaber would need roughly the performance of a complete nuclear power plant. Logically, this cannot be stored in today’s batteries. That’s why the Hacksmith lightsaber needs a connection to a backpack on which the electronics, gas bottles and batteries are located.
Unlike in the previous versions, the engineers do not use solid metal, but rather plasma. Plasma is an electrically conductive gas mixture that can reach extremely high temperatures. But how can you transform the plasma, which is produced by the explosion of a hydrogen bomb, into the shape of a lightsaber?
The Physics Behind the Project
The Hacksmith uses a physical phenomenon called “laminar flow” for this. Put simply, it is a fluid, like water or gas, that flows in layers that do not mix with one another. As a result, the jet acts like a uniform – i.e. evenly shaped – mass. Anyone who has a garden can sometimes observe this phenomenon when watering the plants, when a uniform, transparent jet of water flows from the garden hose, which almost looks as if it were solid. In principle, it is “only” about creating a laminar flow with the right gas mixture. The advantage: By adding certain minerals, the color of the blade can be changed to blue, green, amber, red or yellow.
A Lightsaber like from the Star Wars Films
But enough of the technical details. The important thing is: the lightsaber actually works! With the steampunk-style handle and backpack, it could even come straight from a Star Wars comic. In fact, The Hacksmith managed to implement the retractable “blade” with a smooth plasma stream. The sword is extended within about a second and reaches temperatures of up to 4000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 2200 degrees Celsius).
In the secure environment of the Hacksmith studio, glass is melted and made to explode, sand is burned into glass and even stone is melted. In the test, the makers recreate scenes from the Star Wars films to match. For example, when the plasma lightsaber melts a hole in a 6 millimeter thick steel plate. Or simply cut out an escape route from an old car. In all tests, the plasma flame remains stable in a rod-shaped beam that hardly bends even when the lightsaber is held horizontally.
Unfortunately, the world’s first plasma lightsaber is not solid. This means that sword fights like in the Star Wars films are not possible. Here the inventors (so far) have failed due to the laws of physics. But The Hacksmith brings us a lot closer to the dream of a real lightsaber!