3W Handheld Laser Raises Hope For A Real Lightsaber Someday

That banner image may seem a little bit theatric, but it’s a good representation of what this 3W handheld laser can really do. Turn the thing on in a slightly smoky room and it looks exactly like a thin beam Lightsaber.

What kind of tricks would you expect this thing to perform? Perhaps it’ll pop some black balloons? Prepare to be shocked because it’s orders of magnitude more powerful than that. The video below shows it burning and igniting a collection of items almost instantly. [Styropyro] tested his creation by igniting paper, cardboard, flash paper, flash powder, burning through a stick of wood, and igniting an undisclosed substance at the end of the video. But one of our favorites is when he drives a solar powered toy car with the intense beam.

He pulled the diode from a DLP projector, and drives it with a pair of 18650 Lithium Ion batteries which are commonly found in laptops. He made the enclosure himself. It looks great but we can’t help but wonder if the components would fit in a painstakingly made replica.

104 thoughts on “3W Handheld Laser Raises Hope For A Real Lightsaber Someday

      1. Not a forcefield, but a pinpoint focused gravity-field to bend the light back onto itself, along with a sort of optical capacitor in the hilt to re-capture the photons.

        Of course, if you can bend light with such accuracy, you might as well just forgo the lightsaber and make a gravity-sword.

    1. The only semi-realistic way I can come up with to make a semi light saber is to use a fluid stream filled with thermite powder … shoot a stream, use RF excitation to ignite the thermite, repeat.

          1. I would hate to be the guy they “three in the afternoon” delivered some “safe” toy sabres to test when they come “six in the morning” to pick em up. ;-)

            Those where two of my favourite lightsabre wielding fan films.

  1. Quick question:

    Why are all the articles truncated on the front page??

    As a visitor to the site it makes absolutely no sense to make us click through on every article just to read the text when before we could just scroll down and read them without having to click a single thing (unless we wanted to read/post comments & the original project page etc.).
    Since the beginning we have been able to read the whole article (bar a few which are the project page in themselves) on the front page but this change is a backwards step in terms of site accessability and I really really hate it.

    1. I myself like not having the full article on the front page. It allows me to look at more articles easier. The ones I find interesting I can then just open in a tab and read in more detail.

      1. Well hurrah for you but a lot of us do not like this change and Caleb has yet to even give an explanation as to why they ruined the front page (and search results) by truncating all the articles.

        Why couldn’t he have put a link in that expands the rest of the text **right there on the front page**, or cookie setting preferences that give those who want it the truncated version whilst everyone else gets the full articles?

        1. ^ This one. Lots of web sites do that now, and since it’d just be a few paragraphs of text, it wouldn’t slow the loading down too much. Just have the “more” link expand there in place.

          Personally I don’t mind the site the way it is now. I liked the other way, too. But having it expand in place allows both options at once. And there’s the advantage of having much longer text bits possible.

    2. It’s not unlike the abstract’s found in scholarly journals. 100 words or less to give you the jist of the article and the full thing below. Helps sort out whether or not I want to read the rest.

      1. It pisses me off when websites that work perfectly fine suddenly get a major change or overhaul because the site designer thinks things will be more efficient / easier for the user to use – or they just want to justify their salaries by continually tweaking/modifing things to show they’re doing something for their pay, eBay is perhaps the biggest culprit of this kind of crap, I’ve seen countless detrimental changes to that site over the past 13 years.

    3. where have you been, 1995? it’s now the norm to limit the original post on the home page. it’s good design flow, anyone who creates online content knows you don’t just jam everything on the first page. don’t be a lazy shit and click to read.

      1. What next? Showing advertisement, while loading the full article, ala Rapidshare, etc.?

        Hack-a-day was convenient before the change. And yes, I prefer the web from 2000s, before all the 2.0 idiocies.

    4. When you put whole articles on the first page of blogs, visitors tend to bookmark that page thinking they are bookmarking that content.

      Or they send the url to a friend, who arrives after a couple of days to a page with completely differnet conten

  2. As someone with a custom-made 2.3W handheld laser, who opted for the single-battery model instead of the 3.6W double-battery model, this is alright. Until we can get light to stop in mid air, however, hope for a lightsaber is still lost, in my opinion. The cutting power of a lightsaber, on the other hand, is not. :D

  3. “What kind of tricks would you expect this thing to perform?”

    I expect that lots of burnt retinas will be the main trick. Lasers are NOT toys, stop treating them like they are.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that most of the damage will be inflicted on innocent bystanders instead of the “experimenter” themselves, I’d say let Darwinism run it’s course, but it’s the careless reflection that fries some passerby that makes it sad.

    1. Good heavens, yes. Put this in an enclosure and treat the items under test as if they were being tested. But carrying it around and being able to trigger it when not in test conditions/containment is irresponsible. This is a clear case of a tool not being a toy… and it shouldn’t be used as one. I hate having to put on my safety hat (I’d far rather wear my beavis & butthead hat and like, heh heh, burn stuff, heh heh… and stuff), but this is a clear case where the lack of caution raises the level of risk to a level that is unacceptable. Those who should be doing this are doing so without publicizing it, and those who are doing so and publicizing it should likely not be doing it in the first place. If you’re going to be putting stuff like this out for public consumption, please do so in a way that demonstrates and encourages proper respect for health & safety. That’s all I ask.

      1. What he said.

        Do we really have to start printing warnings for hacker meetings – “Wear patch over eye you want to keep”? SAC surplus must have a few bins left – aircrew were issued with them.

      2. IR laser diode + some CV + pan tilt unit/ XY scanning head and you can blind people without them even knowing… can’t believe lasers are not really regulated much

        1. Totally agree, lasers of this power are very dangerous and are not toys!
          it is way too easy to buy a laser powerful enough to cause eye damage!
          I am all for experimenting, but only with correct safety precautions being used.

        2. Fortunately because of things like beam divergence and atmospheric attenuation to blind people quickly at a distance would require some serious watts and good adaptive optics.
          The Soviets actually made such a weapon it had a pulse power of several KW but never deployed it.

          1. Officially they haven’t been deployed because of blinding weapons treaty from mid 90s… anyway do you feel comfortable knowing that these days anyone can buy a powerful IR laser and point it at people without them even knowing?

          2. Yes, I feel very comfortable knowing that.

            Innovate, don’t regulate. If I lose an arm or eye because of an accident, that’s life.

            If I die at ripe old age asking “What might have been?”, that’s a wasted life.

            Sure, it seems a Faustian bargain. Sure, it’s just a simple laser. However, the uncomfortable truth is that if we don’t get off our posteriors and leave our safety bubble once in a while, we’re not going to learn new things, and I don’t think that’s OK.

            Now go get yourself a UV laser, some B-barium borate, and a PM tube. Fun fact: you can also use them to (inefficiently) pump rubies!

    2. And the tricky thing is that it can also makes holes in your receptor surface and your brain would try to compensate but you’d have multiple blind spots, which fucks you up in real life when trying to use machinery or trying to read something.

      1. I have this problem myself from a poorly regulated 532 nm laser. Though I used safety goggles for that spectra, I had no idea that there was a significant IR component which resulted in more damage to my vision than if I had used no safety glasses at all since I was operating under the illusion of protection.

        Still, I would like to see that beam pointed skyward on a foggy night.

        – Robot

        1. Well more so it was poorly filtered vs poorly regulated.
          A lot of 532 nm lasers use an IR diode to pump a Nd:YVO4 crystal which produces the green light.
          The cheap Chinese lasers sometimes have poor filtering and undersized crystals which allow much of the IR to leak out.
          It’s best to avoid a a really cheap high watt green laser.

  4. When the laser was used on the solar toy car I thought to myself that you could use a laser to power a remote device in an inaccessible area, no battery to worry about, no power wiring, and when you want to turn the device off just kill the laser, just make sure the beam is above eyeball height.

  5. The light sabers aren’t laser weapons, to get the effect in the movies you would probably need to create a shaped magnetic field or some new force we don’t know yet, then heat and suspend a plasma in the air in the shape of the “blade”

    Also, considering the uses the sabers are put through, the output power would be somewhere in the range of megawatts… Maybe you could get one of those “20MW LASER POINTER” the Chinese ebay sellers offer?

    1. You are right. Plasma is much more likely. The way lightsabers go out and then abruptly stop is much more like a concentrated magnetic field than a laser ejecting out from the end. ‘Light’saber is misleading. Upwards of 35 or 50 mW are in a different class and are used mostly for stargazing. Watt+ lasers require research permits right?

    2. I’ve always thought of light sabers in terms of: a telescoping center column, with a mirror on the end. The laser in the base bounces back and forth, creating a “blade”.
      In a sabre fight, the beams hitting each other wouldn’t do squat. The center columns, however, would be mirror-like, and would strike each other – allowing you to stop the blade from slicing through you.
      You’d still get reflections off the columns. Don’t know what that would be like, especially in a fight. Keep your eyes closed, and rely on the Force…?

    3. Pick some UV and IR modes near the 0 transmission of these curves (~70% absorption; ignore the scattering curve):


      Diverge the beams so intensity lessens beyond the range they can ionize the gases. Switch to plasma transition modes. The gases absorb most of the beams so after the dissociation gradient they can’t be felt. The blade’s hue doesn’t correspond with the beam’s hue but with the specific gases entrained, like aurora.

  6. +1 on all the safety comments. Very few seem to have any understanding of risks of lasers even way less powered than this.

    Please read Robot’s comments above.

    Does the prospect of never being able to drive scare you ? It would only take a stray reflection from this thing to do that.

    Having kids, this sort of thing scares the hell out of me, the thought that it only takes one moron to bring a laser to school and flash it around “for fun” and suddenly dozens of kids are blind/have permanently damaged vision.

    I’m glad that sales of lasers >1mW are restricted here in Australia.

    1. There have been a too many incidents in Sweden with so called “green lasers”, or rather what a journalist would write if told about 500 mW lasers of which some just would happen to be green.

      I think one is not supposed to be able to purchase a laser above class IIIR in Sweden, unless for professional use or for built in use, but international web shops kind of skewed that.

      I think one police chief phrased it best when he in a news segment on national TV said that there is no need for teens to run around with laser pointers for 11 kilometre classrooms (probably used rather rhetorical than factual, but about 7 miles).

    2. I am with you effgee. A 1mW will permanently blind you if shone into your eyes. Is it any wonder then that a 3000mW will blind you even from being shone on a wall!!!

      This is out of hand and too many see these as a toy. The ONLY eye injury you get from these is a PERMANENT eye injury.

      As for the restriction in Australia for over > 1mW LASERS … that only applies to hand held pointer type devices that have an inbuilt battery.

      I have imported 1000mW LASERS into Australia legally. They’re for use in a CNC I am building that will be light sealed and have case interlock switches so that it is impossible for the LASER to operate when the light sealed box is opened.

      I hate government bureaucracy but we need some certification process for those who want to use > 1mW here in Australia.

      The sad reality here is that some people are going to be left blind, to have their quality of life destroyed as a result of people PLAYING with what is in reality a very dangerous device.

      People !!! you can’t use these devices without high quality light filters over your eyes. That’s the eyes of EVERYONE that MAY be exposed to the beam. The light filters must match all the frequencies of the beam. Some lasers (like 808nM) are not visible but at the same time are equally dangerous.

      RESPECT your sight, respect the sight of others and for gods sake don’t let these devices fall into the hands of children or the immature.

      1. Halfwit, power doesn’t blind or damage; intensity and target emissivity do. A 5mW red laser doesn’t blind you, even after a minute, only temporarily bleaches a spot. And that laser has the same intensity as the sun.

        Leave your fake god and discrimination out of this.

  7. 1) sweet build. dangerous even with _proper_ goggles!

    2) i say a light saber CAN be made. and it would only take a little work with todays available parts. (and a HUGE battery pack, think 18ah @12v maybe more)

    mount 10 or more 10W or more ea lasers (more then 100W total) in a small circle, num.of andor diameter to be chosen in next step (you want good coverage and a wide enough path for the bar to travel “inside” whatever youve cut)

    mount STRONG rod down center, make sure whatever you do it does NOT bend enough to interupt/reflect lasers, or everyone gets blind/burnt

    add SPECIAL(highpower and heatsink) solarcell with special cover / anti-reflection hood to add back (a small percentage) power to circuit, like regen braking in electric car

    you’d need a ghostbuster’s style powerpak but it would be do-able with today’s technology, heatsink on the end would be hot as hell and need active cooling if you were serious about the solarcell/regen thing

    either way the heatsink on the end would be dissapating over 50W!


    1. Intead of thermocoupler at the end of the rod, a mirror at the end of the rod (telescopic rod that extends and retracts with power on and off) the mirror reflects back, (maybe the heatsink around the diodes could be used to recover power) the mirror having some sort of interlock so if bumped or moved out of place cuts reflectivity (maybe the same way electronic polarization works?) as to not get LAZORED yourself!

    2. X-ray MASER in a strong magnetic field.

      Magnetically deflect the energy at a set distance from the hilt back towards the hilt, where strong magnetics reflects the energy out again.

      Atmospheric plasma cutting through most anything.
      [even light-sabres have their cortosis]

  8. In 1967 we built a HeNe laser with a gain of a whole 0,5mW and thought it was hot stuff. A little acetone on the 1/2 wave mirror to clean it was enough to kill the beam. Now we got 3W solid state lasers in a case the size of a small flash light. Amazing.

    Be careful, you could put your eye out. (See “Red Ryder BB gun)

  9. there are regulations here as well.

    my main issue aint with people having access to them as such, plenty of legitimate reasons to have a laser this powerfull, i do think they should be banned from public spaces though.

    just like i can own and use a chainsaw, no sane person would go swinging that around in public either without a damn good reason (tending to public forests comes to mind)

  10. I’m reminded of an article I saw printed and hung outside of a laser lab at my University. It detailed a retinal injury suffered by an experimenter (sans glasses) whom lost about 30% of his visual field permanently in one eye due to an unseen reflection of a 20W CO2 laser. It reiterated the need for containment and visual protection.

    In Red felt-tip at the bottom of the page-it then stated-“SO QUIT STARING THROUGH THE GAP BETWEEN THE DOORS!”

    Sage words, I feel.

  11. Calm down about the safety lectures, styropyro is a pro. He has been working with lasers for a long time and knows proper laser safety. Obviously he is wearing laser safety goggles.

    If you’ve ever used a high powered laser you know that dot is brighter than the sun. The safety glasses aren’t a hassle, its impractical to operate without them.

      1. Whatever man. I for one, am glad we have the technology to build these devices. It is already illegal to buy premade high powered laser pointers, and its not like any retard can just make one. It takes a lot of research, knowledge of electronics, and money to make a high-powered laser. After you have invested so much into a project you have respect for it.

        I suppose you don’t ever drive or even ride in a car, right? I don’t know of any documented deaths by laser and only a few injuries, but there are millions of car crashes. “In 2010, there were an estimated 5,419,000 crashes, killing 32,885 and injuring 2,239,000.” -Wikipedia

        Read that again so it sinks in. 32,885 dead. 2,239,000 injured.

        Everything is a calculated risk.

        You go ahead and stay in the corner playing gameboy since you had the government regulate and ban everything else, I’ll be out having some fun.

  12. Being 95% blind from birth, I can honestly say to all you people who have 20/20 vision
    and can see out of both eyes, losing your vision isn’t worth it. I do wonder though, if
    such powerful lasers could be used in long straight pipes underground.
    Long distance internet anyone? :)

  13. I shone a laser at the moon once back in the 80’s. the feds and the military showed up at my door and I got a life long ban from possessing lasers. seems as though I messed up some experiment they were doing.

  14. Hey hackaday, how about putting up a tool safety area that contain articles on tool safety and where to purchase professional grade safety equipment such as goggles for laser protection?

    Oh wait, that would require proper journalistic research and article writing.

    Sorry I mentioned it.

  15. Some idiot shot a ‘green’ laser at my eyes while I was driving home one night.

    I’m a cop in a very small town. The stupid bugger bought the device ‘somewhere in france’, and had no idea what it’s power level or rating was. He just knew it was really bright, and made a cool beam when shone in even moderately dusty air.

    What scares me about these high-power devices is not that they’re easy to build, because I think that most people with the wherewithal to build them are likely to respect them, it’s that some chinese factory owner might decide that they’ll sell well, make ten thousand of them, and sell them for a few dollars to ignorant rednecks who think it’s cool to momentarily blind drivers at night for kicks.

    I just hope it’s momentary blindness next time. I had a friend who used to operate electronic warfare equipment on millitary helicopters, he was lased by a russian submarine in the early 90s, and lost a significant percentage of his vision. Took years of fighting with the government to get even a small disability pension. Lasers freak me out, I like my eyes!

  16. I wonder why this kind of laser aren’t used in place of rifles. A bilnd soldier is disabled exactly as an armless soldier. It may sound cynical or unacceptable, but combat weapon are just that. Using this kind of laser would be a lot more accurate than firing bullets (you see EXACTLY where you are aiming at) and its charge would last a lot longer than a magazine. And you can be sure that an enemy soldier firing at you would be looking at you, always.

      1. They are banned by some treaty, however, feel free to shoot them in the face, and leave them permanently brain dead. Or blow off all their limbs. That is A-Okay in warfare.

  17. I agree w/ Lou. Ban explosive projectile weapons, restrict warfare to laser weapons and that would take away all the commercial profits and “fun” away from the politians that keep getting us into these messes. Don’t get me wrong. Since I know the arms dealers will never allow that, I’ll firmly stand for my 2nd Ammendment rights.

  18. Closest thing o a light sabre is the water jet cutter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJYSn9yDSzg

    Unlike a laser, a WJC easily cut through ceramics like concrete or cinder block. It would be hard to point it at something like a sabre but not impossible, I watched an episode of BURN NOTICE in where the protagonist cut the rear masonry wall out in rear of a storage facility with a portable WJC to make a perfect door to sneak in. The door fit right back in as the cut was very thin. A MMW CO2 laser maybe couldn’t do this.

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