Researchers find Star Wars ‘superlaser’ is actually possible

3 Apr 2017

Still from ‘How the Death Star’s Superlaser Worked’. Image: Star Wars Explained/YouTube

Researchers have found that the Star Wars ‘superlaser’ – the iconic weapon found on the Death Star – is actually not outside the realms of possibility.

As one of the most iconic series in science fiction, fans of the Star Wars franchise have often theorised about how possible some of the ‘superweapons’ seen on film could be in real life.

The most obvious one, of course, is the ‘superlaser’ found aboard the moon-sized Death Star, with its giant photonic weapon that was powerful enough to obliterate a planet in a matter of seconds.

The biggest challenge – at least for serious scientists – was trying to find out how much energy the superlaser would need in order to fire.

New research from a team at Macquarie University in Australia has now managed to prove that it is physically possible to multiply a laser’s power, using diamond.

In a paper published to Laser and Photonics Reviews, Dr Aaron McKay and his team were able to demonstrate a concept that would take the power of multiple laser beams and transfer it into a single intense beam directed at a target.

The key component of this future superweapon is achieved by placing an ultra-pure diamond crystal at the point of convergence.

Future uses in space

The ability to combine laser beams into a single force is achieved in diamond by harnessing a cooperative effect of the crystal, causing intense light beams to transfer their power into a selected direction.

In doing so, it avoids the beam distortion problems of single laser technologies, while also changing the colour.

Unlike other attempts to create one powerful beam from multiple sources, diamond can achieve a much higher degree of power and rapidly dissipate waste heat.

“This discovery is technologically important as laser researchers are struggling with increasing power beyond a certain level due to the large challenges in handling the large heat build-up, and combining beams from multiple lasers is one of the most promising ways to substantially raise the power barrier,” McKay said.

Potential future uses – aside from creating the frightening superlaser – could be within the space sector, either as a means of communication or in the fight against the ever-growing problem of space debris.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic