Technological innovation can take the foundational elements of science fiction and merge them into reality, albeit with some limitations. California-based engineer Allen Pan has successfully recreated pop culture items and manifested them into our world, first when he made Thor’s hammer and now with his real-life burning lightsaber.
The hammer of the Norse god/superhero Thor, Mjolnir, can only be lifted by his hands due to a magical connection that he has with the weapon. Pan’s version that he wielded not in Asgard, but in California, also bears the quality that it can be lifted only by one individual, but for reasons that derive from the laws of science and the inventor’s own ingenuity. Pan’s hammer is virtually identical to Thor’s on the outside, but on the inside, it contains an Arduino Pro Mini, solid-state relay, microwave oven transformer electromagnet, and four 12-volt batteries. These different components allow it to be an incredibly high-powered magnet, but the real kicker is the inclusion of a capacitive touch sensor that is connected to the handle and is encoded with Pan’s fingerprints. Because of this, only he can lift it once it is placed on top of a magnetic material, something that he comically demonstrated by filming people trying to lift it while placed on top of different manholes.
Allen Pan’s latest invention probably hits more at home for a greater amount of people, despite originating in concept far, far away. Pan’s lightsaber is essentially a concentrated flamethrower, containing a combination of chemicals and gases that create a flame that he adjusts from the hilt, forming a flame blade that, despite being a rough outline of anything you will see in a Star Wars movie, is still more exact than the plastic toys found in stores. The sound effects he has included into his device also contribute to the overall feeling. He even has an adjustment to make the blade green.
While there aren’t, and probably shouldn’t be, any standards for the construction of Jedi weapons and superhero hammers, many guidelines are still relevant to the components of their makeup and design. Mjolnir made use of electronics standards and magnetic particle testing standards. The lightsaber was constructed using additive manufacturing printed materials, commercial butane, acetone, and while it didn’t use any laser technology, it would be unlikely for any future lightsaber to not make use of standards published by the Laser Institute of America (LIA). In addition to these, both of Pan’s inventions contained metal products that exist due to ASTM metal testing standards.