A new patent recently filed by Boeing suggests that the aerospace and military manufacturing giant is working on a new a energy-based force field that could protect troops, equipment and vehicles from damage caused by explosive shockwaves.
In Patent #8,981,261, which was filed on March 17, Boeing describes “a method and system for attenuating a shockwave propagating through a first medium by heating a selected region of the first fluid medium rapidly to create a second, transient medium that intercepts the shockwave and attenuates its energy density before it reaches a protected asset.”
“The second medium may attenuate the shockwave by one or more of reflection, refraction, dispersion, absorption and momentum transfer,” the company added. “The method and system may include a sensor for detecting a shockwave-producing event, determining a direction and distance of the shockwave relative to a defended target and calculating a firing plan, and an arc generator for creating the second medium.”
That arc generator could create the second medium, they concluded, by creating an electric arc that is capable of travelling along “an electrically conductive path” utilizing one or more intense laser pulses, pellets which form a conductive ion trail, sacrificial conductors, projectiles trailing electrical wires and magnetic induction.
In other words…FORCE FIELDS!!!!
In other words, as CNET explains, Boeing is proposing something not unlike the glowing energy based force fields features in science fiction movies such as Star Trek and Star Wars. The system would deflect potential damage caused by nearby explosions, but as it is currently described in the patent, it would not protect targets from a direct attack, the website added.
The shockwave attenuation system’s sensors would detect a nearby explosion and send a signal to the arc generator, which would ionize a small region and create a plasma wall between it and the intended target using an array of lasers, electricity and microwaves. The plasma field would serve as a buffer that would keep the shockwaves from reaching troops or vehicles.
The area within the force field would differ from the outside environment in temperature, density and/or composition, CNET explained. The system would heat and ionize the air, preventing it from being used on a long-term basis, and while the website said that concept behind the shield is technically feasible, it would also deflect light, preventing anyone inside it from seeing.
The fine print
While the system may seem like something out of science fiction, the killjoys good folks at Wired correctly point out that what the patent describes is in no way a full force field. The shield is not always on, it would not even protect an entire vehicle, and projectiles would go right through it. What it does do is protect a very small area (like a person or one area of a vehicle), and even then, it only activates seconds before the shockwave would reach its target.
Furthermore, considering the technology is in only in the patent stage, there is no way to know when or even if Boeing will be able to develop a workable version of the energy shield, or if the “shockwave attenuation system” will be at all effective, the website added.