You’ll shoot your eye out…with a 1MW laser pulse pistol

G.I. Joe used them to battle Cobra’s evil forces. Han solo shot his first in the Mos Eisley Cantina. For years, hand-held pulse laser guns have been something that existed only in the realm of cartoons and movies…until now.

German hacker [Patrick Priebe] recently constructed a laser pulse gun that looks so good, it could have easily come off a Hollywood movie set. Its sleek white and black exterior adds intrigue, but offers little warning as to how powerful the gun actually is.

Fitted with a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser, it fires off a 1 MW blast of infrared light once the capacitors have fully charged. The duration of the laser pulse is somewhere near 100ns, so he was unable to catch it on camera, but its effects are easily visible in whatever medium he has fired upon. The laser can burst balloons, shoot through plastic, and even blow a hole right through a razor blade.

[Patrick] says that he is more than happy to help out anyone looking to source parts and build one for their own use, so what are you waiting for?

Stick around for a quick demo video of the gun in action.

138 thoughts on “You’ll shoot your eye out…with a 1MW laser pulse pistol

  1. *head asplode*

    So the future’s finally here. Took it long enough.

    In all seriousness, this is utterly awesome.

  2. Correction: its not a 1MW, its a 1KW laser shot, read the text on the website, it’d take alot of power to create the 1MW pulse, wudnt be possible with easily available parts.

    1. “It holds a small pulse laser head, capable of generating aMW-pulse of coherent infra-red light.”

      Seems to say a mega watt here although that seems huge…

  3. Before anyone had a decent way to measure laser intensity, it was measured in ‘gilettes’. A 1 gilette laser could melt through a single gilette razor blade, repeatable around the world. I’d guess that’s about 1-2 gilettes!

  4. My whole neighborhood is now aware of what I want for xmas… due to the eye-poppingly loud cry of joy and excitement that just left my body.

  5. 1 MW ? isn’t that a little too much ?
    I would think it’s about 1 kilo watt.
    Anyway, its pure awesome. I wonder how far you can push its power limits

    1. No, it is 1 MW. It just fires so fast it can’t do that much damage.
      If it were some how modified to fire longer (Which it would need a big power supply.) It could be considered a lethal weapon and could easily blow holes in stuff.

      And yes, I do realize that this post is like 3 years old, but even still I needed this to be here.

  6. Now how long will it be, before the military takes this to use in sniper rifles that aren’t affected by time, nor wind?

    1. may apply to space. But in our atmosphere every distance is full of dust mid air.
      I suppose it’s just effective on close combat ;)

  7. 50 shots is definitely impressive for a handgun-scale weapon (though we don’t have footage of organic matter testing…pigs anyone?), but I think for distance and killing effectiveness standard slug firearms will remain popular.

    1. Maybe at first, but all technology is improved, and if the demand is high enough, then competition will raise the bar, and we will have Star Wars-esque laser-guns.

  8. 1MW for 100ns is about 0.1 joules. It’s a really nice case for an off the shelf laser module, but it’s no more a laser weapon than looking into the laser of a BD-R drive. A BD drive laser will comfortably sustain 20mW, so a 5 second beam will equal the pulsed energy output by this laser, for a lot less outlay than the pulsed Q-switched laser module.

    If it is only a KW module, then a half-second BD laser beam will match the energy output.

  9. Looks like the site is down right now… I wonder if he used aerogel capacitors? Aren’t they supposed to be thousands of times more dense then electrolytic capacitors at the same size? Might be able to shoot a more powerful laser with them….

  10. @psuedonymous

    From a practical military standpoint (bare with me here) no soldier is going to want to wait out in the open for 5 seconds for his BD-R drive laser gun to do its damage. Even holding down the trigger for 30 seconds is a long time. This pistol is instant and that’s what makes it interesting.

  11. This may be a dumb question, but isn’t the pulse unseen on camera solely because it is an infrared laser, not because of the short pulse as stated in the write up?

  12. Now just add a red laser sight going through the same path as the infrared laser and use it to help focus the beam with a lens.

  13. @psuedonymous, don’t hate, it’s much more than a fancy case… :-) It’s all about the intensity. Yeah, a 20mW may put out the same over 5s, or even 1mw for 100s, but I could shine a 1mw all day at something and it won’t do anything… And good luck shooting something and holding a beam perfectly still for 5s if it’s moving… A ‘weapon’ can catch something on the run with a momentary impact. I still think it’s freaking awesome.

  14. I sure thought you accidentally capitalized the ‘m’ in mW when I read the title. Whether it should be a k or an M, still interesting, and a nice build.

  15. @psuedonymous

    20mW is still a really good way to blind yourself.

    That’s the real problem with laser weaponry. Getting something with decent range that’s effective enough to replace kinetic weapons and won’t blind everyone within 3 miles is a bit tough to pull off.

    Sweet case, though.

  16. @Jeff

    “This may be a dumb question, but isn’t the pulse unseen on camera solely because it is an infrared laser, not because of the short pulse as stated in the write up?”

    No dumb questions here :)!

    Actually CCD sensors are sensitive to infrared light! Try this: Pull out your phone and activate your camera. Now point it at a remote control and press a remote button. You should see a bright white-blue light in the phone’s picture of the business end of the remote.

    There was a big stink about this when Sony first introduced CCD cameras. People claimed they could “look right through” cloths (think of the beach). I believe IR blocking filters are now used on CCD cameras. Well, that’s how I recall it. Could be wrong (reads: do your own research).

    One last interesting CCD item. Even though CCD (Charged Coupled Device) sensors were invented over a decade ago, they have recently made scientific news. The co-inventors of the device have won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_E._Smith

  17. Regarding military usage: I’m no engineer, but while lasers won’t be affected by wind, they will still be affected by rain, dust, or even fog. Anything the laser passes through will be that much less energy delivered to the target.

    Heh, this hacker probably found himself a job at DARPA.

  18. I don’t think 1 MWatt is impossible in that format, if you could get conversion efficiency up to say 10% (which is quite high). 10 MWatt electrical discharge is certainly possible.

    That said, the original article does say 1 KWatt … must be a really tight beam if that gets through a razor blade, because that’s not a lot of energy.

  19. The problem with speculation about peak pulse power is that we don’t have enough information. As it turns out, the 1MW / pulse figure is actually pretty close.

    The information that we’re missing is the original (designed) repetition rate for this YAG setup. Typically for flahslamp pumped lasers, this is around 10Hz. The second thing that’s not known is the average power at this repetition rate. For this I assumed around 1W.

    Knowing the approximate pulse width of 100 ns, you can calculate the peak power using the following equation:

    Peak pulse power = (average power x rep. rate period) / (pulse duration)

    If you plug in the above numbers, you should get around 1MW (mega-watt) of peak pulse power. Given the short duration of the pulse and high intensity, this laser actually causes MORE damage to a material than an ‘extended’ exposure to a CW beam (thereby providing the same total fluence at the focus).

    If you run the numbers for an ultrafast laser with average power around 1W, rep rate of 250kHz, and pulse width of ~190fs (yes, femtoseconds), you get a peak pulse power somewhere in the 21MW range.

    I imagine working at the NIF would be a pretty sweet job..

    1. Weaponized laser light doesn’t reflect off mirrors.

      Okay, that’s not true. It does, but it tends to burn a hole through the mirror before much is reflected.

  20. Please post more videos! How about shooting a hanging slab of meat? A hot dog?

    I’m going to check out the main page as soon as it is back up (/. effect). I’d love to see a parts list and an approximate cost.

  21. I’m afraid to ask how well this would work on an inflated car tire…my guess is, “very well”. Errr. Looks like a viable self-defense item, since it’s probably quite effective on human skin.

  22. Yawn. Lasers have to be focused. This isn’t a weapon it’s a toy – at best. Still dangerous but also still a toy. Notice the sci-fi fanboys creaming their pants though.

  23. Great technical achievement and gorgeous build, but…

    more than half the people who are asking this guy to build one for them are bullied teens who will bring it at school to take revenge and impress friends the wrong way, or idiots who will point it to the neighbor’s dog because it barks too much. Others will use it to pop vehicles tires, etc.

    This thing is seriously dangerous. The author should publish free plans but refuse to build it for strangers. Being able to understand the electronics behind this device and building it succesfully usually means one has enough maturity, both in age and brain, to be able to use it with extreme caution.
    But offering it with no check for the buyer’s age and attitude is plainly stupid.

    1. Ah well there is an excellent point…it may not be a laser gun from star wars, but a device approaching the idea of a real weapon, also approaches the domain of discourse of gun laws. I bet someone is going to develop one of these that is really lethal and sell it to strangers, then we have court cases and yada yada, and then laser weapon laws…

  24. He said it took him 70 hours to build not counting parts. To me that says it’ll have a several thousand dollar price tag to have him build one. at $100/hr thats $7000 which I wouldn’t think is overpriced for freelance hand built EE work… he should throw them up for $10,000 and if people are willing / able to pay that who cares what they do with it (maybe make them sign a waiver)

  25. Hmmm…but if I put one on the Moon would it reach the earth? If I multiply the size and power by 100 could I vaporize a target the size of mini-me? One Billion dollars to any minion who can calculate this and provide me with the plans.

    Yours in Evil

    Dr. Evil

  26. Looks like it uses the SSY1 laser assembly I have. Sams Laser guide has all the details to make power supplies for these. My intent was to hook it up to a 2-axis CNC and blast copper off PCBs but a gun is much more fun and dangerous.

  27. I assume this is based off those SSY-1 ND:YAG assemblies that are all over ebay? I bought one awhile back, definitely fun to mess around with but the novelty wore off pretty quick.
    Beautiful build though.

  28. @mt11 What does phase coherency have to do with wave dispersion? You are confusing things, check your physics book.

    Coherent light means all the wavefronts are aligned in phase, thats it.

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