Star Wars lightsabers: how are they powered?

And please don’t say “Dilithium crystals!”

While handling a wireless microphone for the first time during a presentation at work this morning, it crossed the mind of my inner child (never far from the surface) that the size and heft of it resembled a lightsasber. I also thought how much easier it was to use a wireless mic than a wired one.

Then the thoughts combined, and I began to imagine a pre-prequel Star Wars movie depicting the very beginnings of the Jedi Order, so far back that lightsabers needed plugging in to a wall socket or a very bulky backpack generator to provide power. Then somebody invents the “cordless lightsaber”, to the amazement of all, but a Sith Lord steals the charger base, and the quest begins.

So… how are they “really” supposed to be powered, in the Star Wars universe?

 They have a "powercell" in the handle.  What type is not mentioned, but you can be sure it packs more punch than your average AA cell.

In the extended universe (the stuff outside the movies) it is mentioned that the old time Jedi did indeed use back or belt packs to power their sabers.

They run on the combined thought power of the screenwriters.

I can’t quite bring myself to wade through it to summarize, but you will find more than enough information on the theory and operation of lightsabers here.

(I regret to say that the knowledge that the hilt contains a crystal of some description is still sitting in skull. If memory serves, I have that useful information because I read Splinter in the Mind’s Eye in 1980.)

AA batteries, though Darth Vader cheats and uses D cells.

A small wireless power trasnmitter, ala Tesla, that is carried on the Jedi’s belt. That in turn is powered by a miniature generator that runs off of bad scriptwriting.

Here is the definitive answer from How Stuff Works

I regret having the knowledge that the blade is an arc, with energy running outside, then back to the hilt on the inside.

THX brand, don’t settle for less. :slight_smile:

The novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (written shortly after Ep IV was released and considered the basis of a possible sequel before the movie’s success and Harrison Ford’s signing on to reprise his role made the more elaborate Empire Strikes Back viable) contains a scene where Luke uses a captured but damaged blaster to recharge his lightsaber, using some kind of universal power coupling.

In current canon, the handle contains a number (usually three) of crystals that focus the blade. The proper alignment of these crystals is so precise that only someone in tune with the force can properly construct a lightsaber. However, the crystals are not, so far as I know, a power source.

Then I’m surprised they worked at all in the prequels. :wink:

Dry-cell unobtanium-handwavium batteries.

Hooray, a SW question! Since I tend to get pretty wordy on these subject, i’ve got a long answer and a short answer, both based on info from the EU (which is practically but not entirely canon).

Short Answer: They run off of a standardised power cell(s). The reason given for their ability to stay working so long is that after completing their lightsaber, the creator uses the Force to “weld” everything together on an insanely small level, resulting in it having fantastic efficiency; IIRC the only time they effectively lose charge is when the blade is in contact with something.

Long Answer: They originally started off as siege weapons, and as said by other posters they used to be giant things running off of a large backpack power cell. Originally used to open doors, cut holes in things, and the like. Probably based on mining tools.

Skip a few thousand generations, and they became weapons similar to the ones in the, uhm, present. I haven’t read any explanation on how the leap was made, so pretty much all the authors copped out (and you can’t really blame them). Lightsabers can come in many forms, including the normal blades, double-sided, and short blades seen in the films. Four main parts; the case, the power cell, the focusing crystal(s), and the emitter. The crystals are what set the length, intensity, and colour of the blade, and while usually there’s a single set configuration, some lightsabers are made with alternate crystals which, when the saber hilt is twisted/some other means of swapping, can “switch out” the current blade for one of a different length/intensity/colour - useful to gain a momentary advantage in a fight with another lightsaber-wielder. Some lightsabers are made to have actual intensity-modifying controls on the outside, but that’s usually too complicated for most Jedi/Sith to bother. Power-on buttons, from seeing the films and backed up by the EU, are deadman’s switches, and so will turn the blade off on the wielder’s death. At least one lightsaber needs a double-tap to turn it on and off; this is so that it doesn’t accidentally turn on if it bashes against something problematic, say, a wall, a door, a diplomat, the wielder’s leg.

Training lightsabers are also used, where the power is dialed down to the extent that getting hit with one would just give you a nasty burn.

The reason given for the similarity shown in colours chosen (green and blue (and purple) for Jedi, red for Sith) other than it being the actual white/black hat analogue, is that the Jedi get their crystals from caves they’ve kept with for centuries; the Sith, not having access to the Jedi caves, have to make do with artificial crystals which generally make a more intense but less reliable blade. After the Jedi Purge, when knowledge of the caves was lost, Jedi had to find new crystals to use (Luke’s second lightsaber, the green one, has an artificial crystal, suggesting that the crystal-forming technology has improved but that the Sith have kept with their own tradition).

I’d just like to toss in that Vader’s had external dials to alter the length and intensity, as well as a socket that allowed him to recharge the power cell from a larger one connected to his belt whenever he wasn’t using his saber. In other words, his was possible the most sophisticated and advanced one scene. But I stopped following the EU a ways back, so I could be wrong on that last point.

I think the technology for lightsabers like his had been around for a while, so others could have built ones similar to it. Jedi just didn’t need that kind of control, since they’d been trained to fight againt ranged attackers, not other lightsaber wielders. Vader, whose job involved hunting down and killing all the Jedi, did want the flexibility that outer controls gave him. I’ve literally just this second remembered that the terms are “Dual Phase” for a saber with two different settings and “Variable Phase” for ones similar to Vader’s.

I didn’t know about the belt-power source, but probably that’s only something Vader would use, since he needs a powered suit anyway.

The Jedis power them themselves…
…through the magic of caring. :smiley:

Or you can Build Your Own Light Saber.

Sarium Krellide power cells.

…Oops, those are for Phasers. :smiley:

I haven’t read any of the EU stuff, so I know I’m losing my nerd cred by having to ask this: How did Luke know how to build himself a new lightsaber between Empire and Jedi? With the last of the Jedi (Obi-Wan and Yoda) dead, did they leave him some instruction manuals or something?