Geek alert! On May 25, 1977, tens of thousands of boys, men and probably more than a few women walked into a movie theater to see Star Wars (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) and walked out jonesing for a retractable lightsaber light the humming model wielded by Luke Skywalker and the current and former Jedi knights. Well, your wait is over – one of your fellow geeks has invented the world’s first working retractable lightsaber and it has been certified by the Jedi and the Rebel Alliance … OK, by the Guinness World Records people.
"The key component of my lightsaber is an electrolyser. An electrolyser is a device that can generate a huge amount of hydrogen and oxygen and compress the gas to any pressure without a mechanical compressor."
As announced by Guinness World Records, Alex Burkan is a Russian inventor who knows his way around hydrogen – his motorbike has a hydrogen booster using the same technology as his much cooler lightsaber. Burkan says he’s a lifelong fan of Star Wars and the lightsaber was a dream since he saw his first Star Wars movie, but it didn’t become a project until 2013 when he got a job involving hydrogen generation equipment. That’s when he began the long process in his home lab – now the location of his YouTube channel Alex Lab.
"For many years I have collected ideas and spare parts for my lightsaber and power equipment on the internet markets and [from] scrap yards."
Alex is not the type to pilfer parts from work, but he still needed to purchase or scrounge highly specialized gear for the electrolyser – “a device that can generate a huge amount of hydrogen and oxygen and compress the gas to any pressure without a mechanical compressor." That’s what makes his lightsaber better than one invented in 2020 and named the world’s first proto-lightsaber by Guinness – it had a generator which the faux Jedi had to carry too his back … not exactly the best for fighting faux Darth Vaders.
"Finally, the most challenging job was to squeeze the whole gas distribution system in a lightsaber handle."
The Guinness website shows a video of the working lightsaber (watch it here) plus some drawings from Alex’s plans for the electrolyser, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen gases in a tube the size of a flashlight. That design took “hundreds of experiments and bench tests” before it became a working retraceable lightsaber that can cut through metal and enemy arms, legs and neck.
But wait … there’s more!
"Plasma is a stream of high ironized particles so this lightsaber can also attract lightening and other high voltage charges."
Attracting lightning doesn’t exactly sound like a benefit. Nor does the fact that the lightsaber runs out of fuel after just 30 seconds on high power and is “not as stable as it could be.” In fact …
“Sometimes the lightsaber just blows up in your hand because of hydrogen flashback."
Alex looks like he still has both hands, so he’s either managed to avoid accidents or knows Luke Skywalker’s plastic surgeon. Besides inventing the first retractable lightsaber, Burkan also lives by the Jedi code of brotherhood – he’s been in contact with Canadian James Hobson of Hacksmith Industries who invented the proto-lightsaber and they’ve exchanged ideas.
"Sometimes we discuss our current projects. Sometimes we threaten each other with our new inventions, but we always support each other."
Yeah, right. Burkan knows his lightsaber runs dry faster than his rivals’ so he’s also working on an Iron Man suit and some other hydrogen-powered stuff.
True fans would prefer he stick to what he does best and work on a dual-bladed lightsaber or a Darksaber.