This is no Hollywood prop.
Engineer and YouTube personality James Hobson has finally done what so many movie nerds before him have only dreamt about. He created a functional (and potentially deadly) lightsaber fit for a real Jedi.
Many Star Wars fans have tried to create a genuine lightsaber, but have only succeeded in achieving the look through the use of non-retractable metal tubing and light – in other words, a glorified torch.
However, the self-dubbed “Hacksmith” employed what no builder has yet – the principles of laser engineering. In a recent video for his YouTube Make It Real series, he demonstrates how he managed to manufacture a weapon that was previously thought to be nothing more than movie magic.
“Even with all of our new equipment and capabilities, we’re still bound by the laws of thermodynamics,” Hobson explains in the video.
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“Well, theories say that plasma is best held in a beam by a magnetic field, which, scientifically, checks out,” he continues. “The issue is producing a strong enough electromagnetic field to contain a blade. Well the lightsaber would have to be quite literally built inside a box coated in electromagnets, which turns it into a kind of useless science project.”
In order to capture a beam of plasma, Hobson and his teammates, Dave Bonhoff, Ian Hillier and Darryl Sherk, employed the principle of “laminar flow” – combining liquefied petroleum gas, or propane, with oxygen and sending them through “laminar nozzles,” a specialised tool for engineers, which generates a highly concentrated flow of gas to create a plasma beam, according to Hobson.
By adding chemicals to the mix, different colours can be made: Sodium chloride (salt) turns the beam yellow, like Rey’s in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. Boric acid makes green, strontium chloride goes red, and calcium chloride produces an amber colour.
To be able to capture and control such high energy output, about enough to power a nuclear plant, he claims, the lightsaber is connected to a custom-built backpack that serves as the power source, with a circuit that can control the flow of gas.
The result is a near-replica of a lightsaber that projects and retracts on command, and burns at 2200C – hot enough to slice through steel.
“That is so bright,” Hobson says in the clip. “This actually hurts to look at.”
The price tag hurts to look at too: Just one of those laminar nozzles can cost around $5600.
“We did it. The world’s first retractable plasma-based lightsaber,” Hobson says at the conclusion of the 18-minute video, adding that the follow-up demo of how the weapon actually works will “really put (the lightsaber) through its paces, including cutting through a steel door”.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission