Technology and science has advanced such a long way that as of 2015, we finally have a working hoverboard (kind of). Given more time and resources, it is possible that a fully-functional hoverboard will be available to the public within the next couple of decades.
But what about the Star Wars lightsaber?
Our criteria for a real-life functional lightsaber:
- Retractable laser blade
- Slices through almost any material
- Laser collides (clash) when met with another laser
- Containment of laser beam
- Power cell small but powerful enough to power the blade
Let us take a look at the key components and materials.
The materials used to create the hilt of lightsabers vary from lightsaber to lightsaber. It would be safe to assume that we currently have the necessary alloys available to recreate it.
In the Star Wars universe, the crystal is used to describe a variety of stones, crystals or other synthetic materials found in lightsabers. The crystal is attuned to the user’s “Force” during the lightsaber construction.
The Force itself does not exist in our universe, and the only other possible reason we might require a crystal is to perhaps help focus the laser.
The Power Source
According to Star Wars Wikia, the advanced versions of lightsabers have a power cell within the hilt with an internal superconductor used to loop the energy through the blade and back.
The scientist guys and gals at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are on the cutting edge of carbon nanotube technology that could potentially provide the electrical charge required to generate the plasma seen in lightsabers, using a small enough power cell that would fit in the hilt.
“By dramatically improving the power density of lithium-ion batteries, carbon nanotube technology will pave the way to new and improved portable power applications.” – Professor Shao-Horn, M.I.T.
The blade is the trickiest component of the lightsaber. Not only does it need to be able to cut through limbs and steel, it also needs to be able to retract and extend (to a length of 3 ft), deflect laser fire and collide with other lightsabers in duels. Anyone who is familiar with lasers will know that these three requirements go against the physical properties of lasers.
Professor Mikhail D. Lukin from Harvard and Professor Vladan Vuletic (MIT) have through their recent research discovered a way to make photos (light) interact with each other (and deflect) so they do not just pass through each other. Source
There is however no current research pointing to the a way to contain a laser/plasma beam so that it does not shoot off to infinity like most laser beams will do.
Close Working Examples
Here is probably the closest example to a working lightsaber available currently. Wickedlasers.com have created something that looks like something we geeks can aspire to.
How far are we from seeing an actual working lightsaber? Do lightsabers actually defy the laws of physics or is constructing one a plausible thing? We are not far off in terms of components, we cannot be sure as to how long it would take scientists to figure out that final pieces of the puzzle. One thing’s for sure however – the release of Star Wars Episode VII at the end of this year has whetted our appetites and fired up our geeky imaginations once again.