The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Plasma weapons?  (Read 18764 times)

Offline Nobody's Confidant

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1802
  • So loud silence can be.
    • View Profile
Plasma weapons?
« on: 24/10/2007 17:27:09 »
Plasma is a very powerful substance, is it even possible to contain it in a battery to use in a handheld weapon?

mod edit:  I've changed the title of this topic for clarity.
« Last Edit: 31/10/2007 16:32:57 by BenV »


 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #1 on: 24/10/2007 17:53:30 »
Plasma is a very powerful substance, is it even possible to contain it in a battery to use in a handheld weapon?
Plasma is an extremely hot "gas" (it's not exactly a gas because it is...plasma, another state of matter); it can have thousands  degrees of T. Where do you put it? No material can resist such temperatures. You should try to confine it magnetically, as in a tokamak, where they make experiments for nuclear fusion, but those containers are as big as a little house and as much as heavy. Can you bring with you one of them?
(You are for Very Big guns, isnt'it?  ;)).

 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8670
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #2 on: 24/10/2007 19:28:35 »
Depending on your definition the flame of a candle or the gas inside a fluorescent tube is a plasma. Why do you think "Plasma is a very powerful substance"?
 

lyner

  • Guest
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #3 on: 25/10/2007 09:37:38 »
Quote
Plasma is a very powerful substance
It is only as 'powerful' as the energy you put into it.
You can pump most of the air out of a glass bulb (with a school lab vacuum pump) and produce a very reasonable plasma with a (school lab) EHT  supply of a1kV. That plasma isn't very powerful at all.
The ionosphere is full of plasma and that is very low density energy, too.
The plasma used in fusion experiments, on the other hand, contains a lot of energy.
As lightarrow says, "those containers are as big as a little house"; not convenient for a hand gun.
Storing energy is, and has always been, a major problem in most of technology. How convenient would it be to keep your week's supply on electrical energy in one AAA sized battery?
 

Offline Nobody's Confidant

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1802
  • So loud silence can be.
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #4 on: 25/10/2007 17:26:57 »
I'm talking about plasma as a projectile that could be used in a weapon. Strong enough to burn through some basic armor at least.
 

lyner

  • Guest
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #5 on: 27/10/2007 22:43:16 »
This magical weapon will still need a power supply .
How did you propose to 'project' this plasma and to keep it together whilst it's on its way?
AFAIK, plasma balls (ball lightning) don't travel very fast, either. You could just dodge out of the way.
For something like this to work, there has to be some real Science, followed by some proper technology.
 

Offline ukmicky

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3011
    • View Profile
    • http://www.space-talk.com/
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #6 on: 27/10/2007 23:24:21 »
Talking about plasma i love these little toys, they cut through almost anything .


http://www.plasmacutters.co.uk/
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #7 on: 28/10/2007 18:32:33 »
Talking about plasma i love these little toys, they cut through almost anything.
http://www.plasmacutters.co.uk/
You mean that you have used one of them?
How do they work? Which is the vantage in comparison to  cutting with an electric arc (the same as electric welding but with a non-melting electrode and higher currents)?
« Last Edit: 28/10/2007 18:34:09 by lightarrow »
 

Offline JimBob

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6564
  • Thanked: 7 times
  • Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #8 on: 28/10/2007 20:13:46 »
What about a weapon that, like the cutter, creates a plasma, contains it in a magnetic field and then uses the field - or a new technology - to project the plasma towards an object?
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #9 on: 29/10/2007 09:13:14 »
What about a weapon that, like the cutter, creates a plasma, contains it in a magnetic field and then uses the field - or a new technology - to project the plasma towards an object?

What other kind of guns do you think they used in "Star Wars" or in most of science fiction movies?  ;)

Believe me, when military research will have found a practical way to do it, they will use them.
(And this doesn't exclude the possibility that such guns already exists on a few satellites).
« Last Edit: 30/10/2007 13:59:14 by lightarrow »
 

lyner

  • Guest
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #10 on: 29/10/2007 23:08:53 »
The nearest thing to 'your ray gun' (harking back to the 50s and 60s) is the airborne chemical laser. Its pulse travels at c, in a straight line and, if you can see something, you can blast it within a couple of microseconds.
These wobbly balls of plasma  things don't really seem to be what is needed at all.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #11 on: 30/10/2007 14:05:57 »
The nearest thing to 'your ray gun' (harking back to the 50s and 60s) is the airborne chemical laser. Its pulse travels at c, in a straight line and, if you can see something, you can blast it within a couple of microseconds.
These wobbly balls of plasma  things don't really seem to be what is needed at all.
Ok, but it also depends on the purpose. If you want to hit a missile covered with reflecting material, a laser beam wouldn't be very effective; out of the athmosphere a plasma ball would also travel at higher speeds (with respect to travelling in air); certainly, it wouldn't travel as fast as light, but much faster than any common bullet, however.
 

lyner

  • Guest
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #12 on: 30/10/2007 15:10:57 »
The original post was talking of handguns.
Are you sure that a plasma 'bullet' would travel fast in air?
It would have much less mass and would be less dense - suggesting that it would be very susceptible to drag at high speeds. However, it wouldn't fall to the ground as easily as a lead bullet.

The US military are doing serious tests, despite the 'reflecting missile' issue. If the beam were well  enough focused on the target, you could probably generate enough surface heating to stain the reflector and then it would be a runaway situation as the reflectivity got worse.

Or how about the field would be so intense that the surface would become non linear and then the reflection would be imperfect? Any ideas about that?
« Last Edit: 30/10/2007 15:16:42 by sophiecentaur »
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #13 on: 30/10/2007 16:09:57 »
The original post was talking of handguns.
Are you sure that a plasma 'bullet' would travel fast in air? It would have much less mass and would be less dense - suggesting that it would be very susceptible to drag at high speeds.
Yes, it would be less dense, but you could stretch it to a long thread and air friction would be reduced a lot (the impact on the target shouldn't be much less powerful: the tail of the thread would impact just a tiny fraction of a second after the head, and in that little time the first amounts of plasma arrived on the target shouldn't spread a lot).
Furthermore, you could also in theory give it an electric charge and launch it as a tiny coiled thread, as a solenoid with little diameter; this would create a (stronger, with respect to a non-coiled charged thread) magnetic field that would reduce his tendency to expand and so would increase his density.
Quote
The US military are doing serious tests, despite the 'reflecting missile' issue. If the beam were well  enough focused on the target, you could probably generate enough surface heating to stain the reflector and then it would be a runaway situation as the reflectivity got worse.
Or how about the field would be so intense that the surface would become non linear and then the reflection would be imperfect? Any ideas about that?
With a strong enough beam you can't have any problem; even if it finds a surface 99.99% reflecting, that 0.01% would be absorbed, and it could correspond to energies as high as you like! The real problem, of course, is to make laser beams with high enough intensity (or high enough focus or both) .
« Last Edit: 30/10/2007 16:24:47 by lightarrow »
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8670
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #14 on: 30/10/2007 20:22:21 »
As I mentioned, a candle flame produces ions and can be said to be a plasma.
If you have the right equipment you can measure the electrical conductivity of the flame that these ions produce. With slightly more complex kit you can measure the conductivity produced by the ions after you blow them across the room.
Lordy! Lordy! Traveling plasma carrying energy (that's almost too small to notice) across the room at a speed less than that of light (quite a lot less- about walking pace) using "furturistic" technology that (a candle, your mouth and (I suspect, though I havent tried it ) a gold leaf electroscope invented by a bloke who died in 1799).

Is this thread going anywhere?
 

lyner

  • Guest
Re: Plasma weapons?
« Reply #15 on: 31/10/2007 15:04:40 »
I find I have to agree with you B-C.
Science fiction rules again, I'm afraid.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #16 on: 31/10/2007 16:54:30 »
As I mentioned, a candle flame produces ions and can be said to be a plasma.
If you have the right equipment you can measure the electrical conductivity of the flame that these ions produce. With slightly more complex kit you can measure the conductivity produced by the ions after you blow them across the room.
Lordy! Lordy! Traveling plasma carrying energy (that's almost too small to notice) across the room at a speed less than that of light (quite a lot less- about walking pace) using "furturistic" technology that (a candle, your mouth and (I suspect, though I havent tried it ) a gold leaf electroscope invented by a bloke who died in 1799).

Is this thread going anywhere?
Sorry, Bored Chemist but I really haven't understood what you mean to say; can you be more direct?
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8670
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #17 on: 31/10/2007 20:28:17 »
OK, maybe you missed the sarcasm/ irony. The point I was making is that even with ridiculously simple things you can project plasma across the room. It just doesn't achieve much.
In the same way, I could roll a tennis ball across the room and achieve very little. Of course I could fire the ball from a cannon- that way it would go through a window.
There's nothing "magic" about plasma any more than a tennis ball. The important bit is how hard you throw it.
So far we are better at throwing bullets than plasma and I think it will stay that way.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #18 on: 31/10/2007 23:08:44 »
OK, maybe you missed the sarcasm/ irony. The point I was making is that even with ridiculously simple things you can project plasma across the room. It just doesn't achieve much.
In the same way, I could roll a tennis ball across the room and achieve very little. Of course I could fire the ball from a cannon- that way it would go through a window.
There's nothing "magic" about plasma any more than a tennis ball. The important bit is how hard you throw it.
So far we are better at throwing bullets than plasma and I think it will stay that way.
Ah, ok, now I've got it  :)
Yes, plasma has nothing "more powerful" in itself than a tennis ball, apart from having an high temperature, which it's not very destructive in itself, unless the plasma ball is quite dense (which is not so easy to do). However, its conductivity make it possible to launch it with an electromagnetic gun and this means higher speeds than what a normal bullet can achieve.
 

lyner

  • Guest
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #19 on: 02/11/2007 23:43:54 »
I still don't see how this plasma ball is going to move far or fast through air (the original scenario).
The ions on the surface of the plasma will be  highly  attracted to the nearby neutral atoms (by induction). This will cause a terrific amount of drag and will tear the ball apart.
If you try to make the plasma very dense, it will be even more unstable and fly apart even more readily.  I just can't see it traveling as far as a good old fashioned bullet.
Does anyone know of any evidence that this has ever been done? This would resolve the issue.
Ball lightning is the only example that I know of and it just wobbles along slowly making a fizzing sound.
 

Offline nikomaster

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 16
  • A new world, new technology science for all
    • View Profile
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #20 on: 04/11/2007 09:36:24 »
It should be a powerful weapon, the only way to create a weapon like that you should create that gas at instant or find a container.
 

lyner

  • Guest
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #21 on: 04/11/2007 11:18:41 »
Quote
to create a weapon like that you should create that gas at instant or find a container.
So you'd need to throw something at your target containing some device which would create or store the plasma?
Sounds like an artillery shell, to me. 
And the thing / stuff inside it sounds not unlike what would be produced by an explosive- a very hot gas  at very high pressure.
Apart from having a sexy name, your plasma gun has a long way  to go before it can be very useful.
We are, surely, trying to keep at least one foot in the real world on these threads - aren't we?
 

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8670
  • Thanked: 42 times
    • View Profile
Plasma weapons?
« Reply #22 on: 04/11/2007 12:14:19 »
"It should be a powerful weapon"
Why should it?
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Plasma weapons?
« Reply #22 on: 04/11/2007 12:14:19 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums