Aircraft, defense and security company Boeing Co. has just patented force field technology seen more commonly in science fiction. The patent is named “Method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc,” and uses energy to deflect threats, writes Michelle Starr for CNET.
Defending soldiers from enemy fire?
You may be imagining a force field which can repel bullets, but that is not the case with Boeing’s technology. The field is to be used to protect a target from shockwaves from a nearby impact. The shockwave attenuation system described in the patent consists of a sensor which can detect a shockwave-generating explosion, as well as an arc generator which can ionize a small region of air.
The system that Boeing proposes produces a plasma field between the target and the explosion, employing lasers, electricity and microwaves to do so. Such a plasma field would protect the target by slowing down the shockwaves on their path towards the target.
“Such embodiments as described above may reduce the energy density of the shockwave by creating a second medium in the path of the advancing shockwave that reflects, refracts, absorbs and deflects at least a portion of the shockwave,” reads the patent.
Research into stronger force fields
A system like Boeing’s which heats and ionizes the air would be unsuitable for completely enveloping a target and remaining in place for a long period of time, but thos kinds of force fields are theoretically possible. Scientists claim that an electromagnetic field could technically hold a plasma shield in position, but it would also deflect light, meaning that anyone inside would be unable to see.
If Boeing is able to produce a working prototype it could go some way to protecting soldiers from the effects of shockwaves, which can kill us. Despite advances in armored technology which stops shrapnel from reaching humans and their equipment, the problem with shockwaves is that they essentially pass through armor.
Some commentators are skeptical as to whether Boeing will be able to produce the equipment, but if they can it will be another step towards making science fiction become reality.