Moving the world into... a galaxy far, far away

Our people are always ahead of what's next, tackling the big questions to make chips smaller, faster and more energy efficient. As the sci-fi lovers of the world celebrate May the fourth, we challenge our engineers to dream big and ask them what if we could bring intergalactic technology to life. Let's have a look at what they said...

When did you first see Star Wars?

Quinton, Global Product Support Engineer: "When I was 10 or 11. I watched them with family. My cousins liked them and we all watched them together"

Danny, Field Service Engineer: "2016 Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

Kees, Principal Engineer: "I saw part 5 and 6 (Empire Strikes Back & Return of Jedi) as a kid in the mid-90s, repeatedly. We had them on video at home and since we lived in the middle of the country without any commercial television / internet (crazy to imagine nowadays) we always fell back on these (and other) videos. Great times!"

Ellen, Field Service Engineer: "I watched the movie for the first time when I was very young. With that classic opening, I embarked on a thrilling adventure alongside Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the other protagonists."

Jonathan, Field Service Engineer: "I'll never forget it, it was 2006."

Who’s your favorite character?

Quinton: "Hot take: I liked Darth Vader. I liked how Palpatine contributed to his story. If you think of the alignment chart- Palpatine is a Neutral Evil. Vader is Lawful Evil. I find those dynamics incredibly interesting. It’s interesting to see the Vader arc from chaotic good to lawful evil. It’s legendary."

Danny: "Yoda. Compared to the others, Yoda takes advantage of his wisdom as well as his lightsaber skills."

Kees: "Even though I don’t really like the prequels… my favorite character is (the young) Obi Wan Kenobi. His individualism, wandering around, investigations, knowingness, and determination actually fit my own character really well – probably that’s why I like him a lot. No need to explain that the character I play in my own film matches that of Obi Wan!"

Ellen: "My favorite character has to be Yoda. Whenever I face difficult choices, I often think of this little green elder."

Jonathan: "Chewbacca and Han Solo."

In today’s world, what would we need to create androids like the ones in the films?

Quinton: "Patience and money. A lot of money. We’re likely only a few years away from having a working C3PO style android. Companies like Boston Dynamics and Honda have made incredible strides in bipedal robotics. Building off that, with the likes of Sophia from Hanson Robotics, and we’re almost there."

Kees: "Mechanically, we know everything – there are robots walking, jumping, evading obstacles, etc. What we “lack” in the droid terrain is artificial intelligence. In order for droids to act as they do in the movies, they have to be creative / innovative. AI is strong, but today it still works on an input basis; it creates output on rules we have set. With the progress of AI development, I think that real creative AI could be realized within our lifetimes (and that opens up a whole world of ethical discussions!)."

Ellen: "While our current technology may allow us to build humanoid robots, imbuing them with autonomous consciousness and emotions, like those in Star Wars, remains a great challenge."

How would you describe the science behind lightsabers in the films, taking the Force out of the equation?

Quinton: "It needs some work. But inevitably, life imitates art. We see that here- where, I think, some scientific efforts have been inspired by what came out of Star Wars. While the science in Star Wars isn’t always well explained, or even that accurate, we as a society decided we want it to be real and have worked our way towards that. "As far as light sabers, the science exists, but the money to make that feasible is something only Disney would be able to afford!"

Kees: "Looking at the science fiction, a light saber is a plasma which is sustained by a power cell and focused by a lens – the source of the plasma being the crystal and the Force. The latter two are definitely science fiction, so looking at the science we need to exclude those. Hence, let’s focus on the defining physics part of a light saber, which is plasma – an energetic gas consisting of atoms separated into ions and electrons.

Plasma cuts through everything – which we see light sabers do in the films. However, it also cuts through itself – plasma is not a solid – so you would not be able to use these as classical swords, they would just move through each other.

Looking at plasma, technically speaking, there would be two options to create a light saber, obeying the laws of physics:

  • Plasma contained by an external, very powerful (and to be honest absolutely absurd) magnetic field. This cannot be done by current technology. One of the challenges would be the dissipation of extreme amounts of heat (by the plasma and the magnetic field). An example of a plasma controlled by a magnetic field is a nuclear fusion reactor; the plasma is magnetically contained in a torus shape.
  • Laminar flow plasma by burning gas that flows out of a tube. This has been done by some engineers – but the downside is that you need an enormous gas tank on your back as a source for the plasma and with the beam at 4000°C wielding it would be extremely dangerous. Adding salts to this beam can actually give it the various colors we know from the sabers; this is the same tech used in fireworks.
  • Considering existing technology today, a standard plasma cutter is actually a mini-light saber! The Laminar flow plasma saber described above uses the same principle."

Today we could use a lightsaber for rescue services, cooking and even medicine. For example, a small “surgical saber knife” would mean wounds would close immediately, no bacteria, no excessive bleeding.


Danny: "In the future, scientists will invent a machine that can convert oil to special materials called SWANDS. People will be able to produce as many androids or lightsabers as they want."

Have the movies been an inspiration to you in real life?

Danny: "Yes, of course! Many scenes in the movies somehow triggered people, especially scientists and engineers, to be more hopeful in making their imaginations a reality. Thinking out of the box, always being ahead of what's next!"

Kees: "Well… with my (amateur) film crew we made a martial arts meets Star Wars film. The light sabers were my design."

Ellen: "Sure! These movies have profoundly inspired me. They told me to bravely face my destiny, and I learned the noble qualities of perseverance and self-sacrifice."

Jonathan: Yes, we should always believe in ourselves! May the force be with us!