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Can Lightsaber Technology be Used in Everyday Life?

Can Lightsaber Technology be Used in Everyday Life?
Posted at 10:30 AM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 12:51:49-04

WTXL is looking at different aspects of the world famous film franchise all month long. Tune-in Mondays at 5:30 p.m. Next week, we will take a look at space flight.

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. (WTXL) -- Some of the most memorable moments in the Star Wars franchise are the fight scenes. And there are tons.

Cool on screen, but what about in reality? Have you ever wondered if we will have laser blasters in our lifetime? And what about lightsabers? How far are we from seeing lightsaber swords fights in our lifetime?

First, we'll look at blasters. John Bales, a criminal justice professor at Saint Leo University knows about the modern day uses of weaponized lasers. Normally lasers are used in pointers or LIDAR guns, but if the energy is high enough: "It burns through the material causing damage," said Bales.

So do we have technology like that right now?

"Recently we started using lasers in the Navy", said Bales. " And right now they've also tested, but they discontinued the use of lasers mounted on airplanes to take down ballistic missiles and airplanes."

Even if discontinued, they did exist at some point. Could we see our soldiers hold blasters like the ones the Imperial storm troopers carry?

"When you talk about the weapons systems, we're talking into the millions of dollars and they're heavy", said Bales. "The ones on the ships are maybe a couple tons." So even if you were strong enough to hold a mounted laser, practical use doesn't look feasible.

Let's now look at lightsaber technology.

In the medical field there are systems that have similar properties. Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare (TMH) uses radiation therapy to treat cancer, and it does so by using high energy particles to damage and destroy cancer cells.

"We very tightly hone down the radiation to target the tumors on different sites of the body," said Ovidiu Mariana, a radiation oncologist at TMH.

"The beams of radiation are like the lightsabers. They focus very tightly on the tumors that we're treating."

But as similar as radiation therapy machines are to lightsabers, the machines are not hand held. So they're not the lightsabers we're looking for.

But there is a new hope and its name is the Medtronic PEAK PlasmaBlade®. Sounds like a science fiction weapon, right? But it does exist.

"The PlasmaBlade® essentially is a medical device used for soft tissue dissection", said Adam King, Senior Director of Global Marketing for Medtronic. "Mastectomy is probably one of our bigger applications. "

The energy that flows through PlasmaBlade® allows it to cauterize tissue, or burn it, to prevent blood loss. And if you've seen the Star Wars movies, you know that lightsabers burn.

"While it can cauterize tissue, it does it at a much lower temperature, so it wouldn't burn or be as hot as your standard electrical surgical device," said King.

It also needs to be plugged in so it's not quite a lightsaber, though similar.

For more on TMH and radiation therapy, click here.

For more on the PlasmaBlade®, click here.