A teenager building a death ray in his back yard is now recovering from the loss of the spectacular device, but says he has high hopes for the next one. The previous death ray, was capable of melting concrete, cutting through steel, and boiling water within two seconds. What’s more anyone could essentially build one and it uses only the power of the sun. Of course a similar device while it could be dangerous is actually being used in a number of power generation applications worldwide.
The system essentially uses thousands of mirrors arranged in a concave hemisphere all focused on one central point. When aligned with the sun, the mirrors would focus all in one place and essentially take the photons gathered from each individual mirror and focus them on one central point. The end result is a focused beam that gives off as much light as 5000 suns. Well, 5,800 to be exact. In the video he focuses the beam on pieces of wood, soil, tin cans, and even a small pebble. All are destroyed within seconds. The wood bursts into flames, the soil melts, the tin can is bisected by the intense heat, and the pebble turns red hot and explodes in a video he posted of his experiments with his creation.
If it seems like science fiction, it’s actually not. The device, made by Eric Jacqmain, utilizes a satellite dish with 5,800 mirrors glued to it. Each mirror only serves to reflect light, but just as a magnifying glass can be used to redirect the sun’s rays and used by youths to melt army men, the mirror essentially does the same thing but instead of allowing the light to pass through the lens, projects it out the other side.
Of course the applications of the technology go beyond just the simply novelty of it all. Archimedes is credited with using several hundred mirrors to focus the sun’s rays and create a ray gun operated by the defending city of Syracuse against the Roman fleet. The mirrors worked so well that legends were told of the Roman fleet bursting into flames and sinking into the ocean.
And currently mirrors are being used to power the Odeillo solar furnace which can reach temperatures of up to 3,800 degrees Celsius using only the power of the sun. This in turn is used to generate electricity without using solar cells. As photovoltaics are still playing catchup in terms of both demand and cost effectiveness, some developers are turning to more unconventional approaches to the sun and how to use its energy.
But whether it’s kids frying their least liked Christmas presents on the Fourth of July, Archimedes defending the city of Syracuse, or a do it yourself death ray, there’s no doubt that the sun can produce quite a bit of power even by today’s standards.
Unfortunately the death ray was destroyed when the tool shed it was housed in mysteriously (or perhaps not so mysteriously) burned down. Fortunately, for the world of back yard science he is planning on building another – this one several times as powerful as the first.