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Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.

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Are Sci-Fi Energy Sources Even Possible?

Sci-Fi Energy

From Thor’s Hammer to the Flux Capacitor, the wonderful world of fiction has given us some crazy power ideas. We’ve detailed here some of our favorite fictional, non-fossil fuel energy sources. We hope the environmentalists appreciate the shout out for these—for the most part—renewable energy sources, even if they exist only in some super cool fictional realities. Our list compares real-world plausibility, energy source, primary use, creator, and more.

Flux Capacitor – This is simply the best of the bunch on our list. Everyone knows that the Flux Capacitor requires 1.21 gigawatts (pronounced “jigawatt” in the movie) of power to travel through time.

Primary use: Time travel.

How does it work? In the movie, Doc uses a lightning strike to power up the capacitor to get his 1.21 gigawatts of power.

How plausible is it? Scientists have actually made a flux capacitor on two occasions, but not to travel through time. Rather, the device, which resembles the design of the flux capacitor in appearance is some type of electronic circulator that can control the movement of microwave signals. As for the real-time traveling capacitor, it’s about as plausible as a cucumber, which is exactly the amount of energy the lightning bolt would create. Lightning strikes sure do pack a punch, but in terms of watt-hours, it’s not so much, since a bolt of lightning lasts for about 50 microseconds. The energy derived from such a short-but-powerful event is about 60,500 joules, or 14 kilocalories of energy, which, Vocativ tells us, is equivalent to the energy found in a cucumber.  So on the plausibility scale, we’d call that a zero. Related: Russia Ready To Seize Control Of The World's Largest Oil Reserves

The People Battery – This one is just weird, which is why it made our list. In the Matrix, humans have been enslaved as a power source to feed the hungry machines that have taken over the planet. Aside from a great reason to shun all forms of AI, the movie gives a bleak picture of fields of humans, submerged in tanks and hooked up to hoses and wires.

Primary use: To power a world of robots.

Sci-Fi Energy

(Click to enlarge)

How does it work? Humans, alive but unaware of their state, are in possession of their mind, but they are in a fictional world that exists only in their head. These humans are grown, Morpheus states. As for the downright specifics of how this people juice works, we’re not quite sure.

How plausible is this energy source: Not very, and that’s being optimistic. Essentially, humans are sucky at converting fuel into energy—estimates are near 25%. This is less efficient than almost any energy source we can think of. And since these people are created, and the first law of thermodynamics says that energy is not created, only converted, we see that battery slaves are an immediate no-go. Even an inert human burns calories—quite a few actually. This is all lost energy for the evil robots. In fact, the brain alone is responsible for sucking up 20% of the body’s energy. 

Our conclusion is that far more energy is expended to make babies and keep people alive than is generated by the field of zombie humans turned batteries.

Related: The End Of The Asian Oil Product Glut

How much energy does it generate? For all the reasons listed above, the answer is: negative energy.

The Lightsaber - As the only Star Wars-derived energy source in our list, we thought this deserved a bit more attention. But as energy sources go, let’s be honest--this is neither the biggest nor the best. It’s still way cool. We’ve covered the Death Star in a separate article.

Primary use: Self defense if you’re a Jedi. Offensive weapon if you’re a Sith.

(Click to enlarge)

How does it work: Lightsabers create energy from its main power source, a diatium power cell, which is located in the space below the light, in the hilt. The diatium power cells are naturally recharging. A Kyber crystal then focuses that energy, and then contains that energy. Only then can it be used to hack off hands and split open Tauntauns.


How plausible is this energy source? Because the source of this energy Kyber Crystals, which also powers the Death Star, does not exist, one would think the plausibility meter of making a lightsaber would fall somewhere between “heck no” and “maybe in some parallel universe”. And while some would argue that there has actually been work to create one, albeit accidentally, comparing this to the concept of the lightsaber is a bit of a stretch.

Who can wield this energy source? One might think you need to be a Jedi or a Sith, but anyone with a hazardous inclination can swing it around.    

How much energy does one lightsaber generate? We’re not quite sure, but Qui-Gon Jinn used his saber of light to cut through blast doors over a meter thick. To melt 0.87 cubic meters of conventional steel, it would require approximately 1.69 gigajoules of thermal energy. If you don’t know much about thermal energy, this is about the equivalent of a lightning bolt, or 120,000 AA batteries, 650 car batteries 67 Tesla Powerwalls, or one nuclear reactor, according to the wise mind of someone at Context Energy Examined.

Stay tuned for more of the best fictional energy sources!

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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