When it comes to science fiction energy swords, the lightsaber will probably always be king of the coolness hill. Unfortunately, they’re completely impossible to build in the real world — at least if you’re limited to conventional physics and the technology available today. Plasma arcs, on the other hand, are possible to create and still pack a lot of energy. They’re even practical enough to be used in fancy lighters and metalworking plasma cutters. In his latest YouTube video, Allen Pan built a plasma blade that can be wielded like a sword.
Plasma is just another state of matter, like a liquid or solid, and can be created by arcing electricity through a gas. If the arc is small enough, plasma can be generated with a relatively small amount of power as long as it’s pushed to a high enough voltage. That’s how plasma lighters and spark plugs work. A bigger arc — or field of arcs in this case — requires a lot more power and a supply of gas to be heated into plasma. For the latter, Pan used an electric leaf blower to push fresh air through the field between the plasma blade’s electrodes.
Those electrodes form a Jacob’s ladder apparatus, which would normally produce individual arcs that travel up the ladder. But, because he’s forcing air through the field, the plasma is dispersed to create a “blade.” It’s the same setup used in plasma cutters, just on a larger scale. Pan 3D-printed the parts to turn that into a sword-like device with the plasma field held between two electrode “blades.” It probably wouldn’t hold up well against a lightsaber, but it can cut through cardboard!