CostumeCollection (“The Home of Costumes & Cosplay in Australia!”) has put in some research on the current viability of lightsabers. Their conclusion, unsurprisingly, is ‘not yet’. Here’s their thinking:
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. 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 photons (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. [Not so sure about this one as long as the beam is plasma, not a laser GiS.]
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.