Student calculates which colour lightsaber would be most powerful
11 December 2017
A University of Leicester student has analysed the power output of iconic Star Wars weapons based on wavelengths. Which colour is more powerful?
Aspiring Jedi Knights will be happy to learn that the red lightsabers used by their enemies, the Sith, are likely the weakest type available on the futuristic arms market, while a purple lightsaber would be the strongest, based on calculations made by a University of Leicester student.
Luke Willcocks, from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at the University of Leicester, first calculated the power output of Qui-Gon Jinn’s green lightsaber in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
He examined a scene from the film in which the character, played by actor Liam Neeson, attempts to melt a hole in a blast door which blocks his route.
Assuming the door is made out of the fictional material in the Star Wars universe ‘Doonium’, often used to build spacecrafts, Luke factored in the initial temperature, melting point, final temperature and mass of the metal door, concluding that the power output of Qui-Gon’s standard green lightsaber would be 6.96MW (megawatts) in order to get through it in the time shown in the film – only two orders of magnitude smaller than the power output of small nuclear power generators.
With the strength of a green lightsaber in mind, Luke applied his calculations to other colour variants of the iconic weapons of the Star Wars universe.
Luke worked on the assumption that lightsabers produce pure photonic energy and that the different colour variants of lightsaber are all the same length of 91cm and width of 4cm.
He then set about calculating the power output of different lightsaber colours based on energy output and wavelength and how long it would take for them to melt through the door.
He concluded that shorter wavelengths would result in a more powerful lightsaber overall, with the lightsabers taking the following amount of time to melt through the door:
• Red – 14.00 seconds
• Yellow – 12.00 seconds
• Green – 11.00 seconds
• Blue – 9.60 seconds
• Purple – 8.20 seconds
Based on these findings, Luke’s calculations suggest that purple lightsabers would be in high demand in the Star Wars universe, being able to burn through a reinforced metal door in almost half the time as a red lightsaber and thus being more powerful.
This leaves the Sith with the weakest type of lightsaber – the red variety - perhaps explaining why they ultimately lose in the films against more powerful weaponry.
Luke presented his findings in a paper for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science. The student-run journal is designed to give students practical experience of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing scientific papers.
Dr Cheryl Hurkett from the University of Leicester’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science said: “An important part of being a professional scientist (as well as many other professions) is the ability to make connections between the vast quantity of information students have at their command, and being able to utilise the knowledge and techniques they have previously mastered in a new or novel context. The Interdisciplinary Research Journal module models this process, and gives students an opportunity to practise this way of thinking. The intention of this module is to allow students to experience what it’s like to be at the cutting edge of scientific research.
“The course is engaging to students and the publishing process provides them with an invaluable insight into academic publishing. It also helps students feel more confident when submitting future papers. I find it a very rewarding module to teach and I am always pleased to see my students engaging so enthusiastically with the subject. I encourage them to be as creative as possible with their subject choices as long as they can back it up with hard scientific facts, theories and calculations!”