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Science & TechnologyPutting the "Science" in "Science Fiction" – Energy Barriers

Putting the "Science" in "Science Fiction" – Energy Barriers

Putting the "Science" in "Science Fiction" – Energy Barriers

In many works of science-fiction, people use walls of dangerous energy to protect important areas, contain prisoners and even protect starships from attack. These energy barriers are similar to force fields, but are different because they are made up of energy, that is harmful to whatever touches it and offers protection by disintegrating incoming attacks rather than merely deflecting them. These dangerous barriers have a variety of uses, but are often shown replacing physical objects, such as fences, cell bars or walls. Although the technology to create these devices would seem far-fetched, building an energy barrier would likely be easier than producing the force fields that are so common in science-fiction.

"A fence or set of cell bars formed by laser beams projecting across a space" PHOTO CREDIT:

A common form of energy barrier that is seen throughout science-fiction is a fence or set of cell bars formed by laser beams projecting across a space. The idea behind this system is that anything touching the beams would be cut, and so it creates a formidable barrier to prevent people from crossing it. Like other uses of lasers, the technology to create these devices already exists, although it will need to be improved in order to be used to its full capacity. The basic technology already exists and is used in laser-based alarm systems. These systems project a weak laser beam that triggers an alarm when it is crossed, alerting people to an intruder. By increasing the strength of the beams until they are capable of cutting or burning through an intruder or object, they could work as a powerful defense.

Although the technology behind creating a device like this is fairly straightforward, the hurdles of power generation and miniaturization will still need to be overcome before it is possible to build useful versions of laser systems like this.

Another type of energy barrier that is common in science-fiction is created from plasma held within a magnetic field. Plasma shields like this are used in many science-fiction works, and perhaps most famously by the Covenant from the Halo series. Scientists are already experimenting with creating this type of shielding in order to protect future starships from dangerous particles. Low-temperature plasma shields may also be used in other ways, such as preventing air from leaking out of spacecraft, and this technology is already being used to prevent charged particles from escaping from particle accelerators.

Although these types of shields could operate at a fairly low temperature, it would also be possible in the future to create much hotter plasma fields. If a plasma field were made hot enough, it could even be used on the battlefield to disintegrate incoming projectiles and disrupt incoming attacks using plasma-based weapons. These shields would be very difficult to penetrate with any kind of conventional weapons, and would also make space exploration much safer by protecting spacecraft from the many pieces of debris and small meteorites that float through space.

Once energy barriers become possible, they will help protect the vehicles, spacecraft and important places of the future. The technology to create these devices is rapidly approaching and when it does, energy barriers will offer a new level of security to astronauts and soldiers alike, and will make important facilities more secure than ever.

"These shields ... would also make space exploration much safer by protecting spacecraft from the many pieces of debris and small meteorites that float through space." PHOTO CREDIT 



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