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A real-life lightsaber? Military device cuts through metal

Posting in Design

Whether you're Star Wars fan or not, brace yourself. A little-known defense technology firm has developed what's been called the closest thing to a real-life light saber.

Resembling a sturdy metallic flashlight, the Metal Vapor Torch certainly looks the part. With the press of a button, the wielder can ignite a fiery blade powerful enough to slice through solid metal. Energetic Materials & Products is marketing the tool as ideal for pulverizing deadbolts, padlocks, chains and just about any deterrent you can think of. It may be particularly useful for military personnel, police and emergency responders since they're often called to situations in which agents may need to breach a secured site within a matter of seconds.

As Popular Mechanics explains, the torch generates a momentary jet of flame using a complex mechanism that involves copper oxide, magnesium and aluminum particles. The resulting concentrated stream of heat shoots out at a blast speed of over 1,600 miles a second with a temperature above 2,700 degrees Celsius. And as it exits out the rectangular-shaped nozzle, it comes out in the form of a sharp blade.

But sci-fi fans should take note that any comparisons to lightsabers are somewhat of an exaggeration since the technology is, at best, more akin to a burning pocket knife than the laser-powered plasma variety designed to combat evil empires. As you can see from the video, the torch's effect lasts only a few seconds as it relies on disposable fuel cartridges. Still, scaling up the technology, the company says, would enable troops and law enforcement to tear through inch-thick steel and fiberglass.

The Metal Vapor Torch is expected to sell for 135 dollars a unit, with cartridges costing around 35 dollars. A version of the device for testing will be available for defense and police agencies later this year.

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— By on December 6, 2012, 8:40 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure