Cloaking devices have always belonged to realm of science fiction and even fantasy. But Boeing scientists have possibly found a practical side to the ‘technology’ that could shield soldiers from explosions. Envisaged like a force-field of sorts, the company’s patent (already submitted to United States Patent and Trademark Office) entails a layer of heated, ionized air that can guard against shock waves emanating from an explosion. In other words, the so-called layer is not designed to prevent physical objects like shrapnel and debris flying from the explosion; rather it is developed to ‘deflect’ shock waves that are often not shielded by armor systems present in current military vehicles. This consideration certainly has its degree of credibility, since blast waves can cause immense physical trauma to a human body – as opposed to their fictional counterparts in movies.
The question naturally arises – how will this seemingly futuristic system work? Well, the mitigating process would start with the vehicle’s specialized sensors detecting the magnitude of the blast. These sensors in turn will be wired to an arc generator that could fire high-intensity laser pulses in the direction of the blast. This would lead to the ionization of the air in between, thus creating a laser-induced plasma field. From the physical perspective, both the density and temperature of this plasma field will differ from the surrounding – which transforms it into a shield of sorts that would deflect the incoming shock waves.
There is obviously a good enough reason for the deflection to occur, since shock waves move faster through hot air. So, the waves change their velocity (in this case, being accelerated) when they ‘hit’ the electrically-charged field (with a higher temperature) – which in turn leads to their refraction, or bending away at a slight angle. This ambit of bending away is dictated by their increased speed and the formation of the aforementioned plasma field in terms of coverage.
Of course, many of us would still be worried about the immense amount of power supply required for fueling the arc generator. Now while that is a part of the practical predicament, theoretically, a high-powered laser can heat a layer of air within a second – thus not requiring much magnitude of power at the end of the process. Furthermore, the prescribed technology is not limited to military vehicles; it can be utilized for even civilian infrastructure, including shock wave-protected buildings, automobiles and passenger airliners.
Interestingly, this is not Boeing’s first tryst with laser systems – they have already tested their HEL MD mechanism, a land-based laser cannon that can be controlled by an Xbox controller.