When it comes to sci-fi coolness, the lightsaber is the ultimate champion, finding a special place in the hearts of Star Wars fans but also having emerged as a highly recognisable piece among pop culture props.
Now, James Hobson—an engineer and a popular YouTuber also known as “The Hacksmith”—has created the first functioning lightsaber, using propane gas burning at around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit to create a retractable plasma beam heat capable of cutting through steel.
The Canadian YouTuber has a following of 10 million subscribers and he works on turning popular science fiction items into reality. He has made various lightsabers previously—even an insanely dangerous one—but wanted to make the world’s first, retractable, plasma-based version of it.
The video of him making this, which is part of his “Make it Real” series, has been watched over 11 million times.
“The issue is producing a strong enough electro-magnetic 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,” Hobson says in his video.
Hobson and his team of three used liquid petroleum gas which is commonly found in barbecues. The liquid fuel is later mixed with oxygen and made into a beam of plasma via laminar flow, a physical phenomenon which allows liquids to flow smoothly.
The gas goes through a tube from a backpack into a nozzle shaped like the Jedi weapon. “We need a large array of laminar flow nozzles to create a highly concentrated flow of gas to create a plasma beam,” says Hobson.
The casing and designing was built in-house but a suitable nozzle was bought for $4,000. And, unlike previous attempts where a metal road was often used as a core, this new creation is fully retractable and can still cut through materials.
Hobson also mentioned that those backpack-free designs are currently beyond the reach of our technology, as they would require D-sized batteries capable of churning out more power than a nuclear power plant.
He and his team have also worked on how the beam can change colours. By adding sodium chloride the plasma turns blue; by adding boric acid turns it green; strontium chloride turns the beam red. The price for this lightsaber is a cool USD 4,000.
This isn’t the first time Hobson has amazed people with his work. He’s also given the world fully functioning replicas of iconic movie weapons, including Wolverine's claws from the X-Men franchise, Captain America's shield and Thor's mighty hammer from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even the thermal imaging helmet from the Predator movies.
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