Feeds

US special forces tool up with 'plasma blades'

Energy cutlasses cleave flesh with '66% less effort'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

America's top-secret elite commando forces have been field-testing a "plasma knife" - a handheld unit which generates a cutting "blade" of glowing ions.

Disappointingly for any wouldbe kimono-clad combat mystics out there, the handheld energy cutlass isn't intended for hand to hand combat and can't be used for parrying directed-energy-weapons fire. Rather, it's a surgical tool - intended to let combat medics cut into stricken buddies without worrying about bleeding, as the plasma blade seals off blood vessels as it slices through flesh.

Handheld plasma scalpels are already in use by normal hospital doctors, and manufacturers claim that they offer an ideal middle way between a normal steel blade and "electrosurgery" techniques. With steel you get too much bleeding: with an electric cutter, which cauterises as it goes, there's too much burning and scarring. One medical-equipment firm claims (pdf) that its plasma rigs reduce bleeding by 60 per cent compared to an ordinary knife, yet cause 75 per cent less "thermal damage" than an electrocutter. Better still, apparently one needs "66 per cent less force to cut tissue", and there is "little to no surgical smoke in the cut mode".

From the point of view of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM, the US forces' secretive supertroopers), there are some downsides to a normal plasma knife. While the unit itself is handily pen-sized, it has to be powered via cables from a bulky cart-mounted machine which requires a power socket. This isn't ideal for a surgeon operating in the snows of the Hindu Kush or the burning deserts of Helmand, far from friendly support.

Hence it seems that SOCOM has developed a "wearable, low-power" plasma cutter, presumably with a belt or harness mounted powerpack for use in the field. According to this government pdf, unearthed by the team at Wired magazine's Danger Room blog, "field evaluation" of the portable energy blade was completed at some point during the 2008 financial year. (So, worryingly, were "studies" into treating decompression sickness in divers by injecting refrigerator coolant into their veins.)

It would seem that American combat medics of the future, in addition to their spraycan wound-Polyfilla, ultrasonic blood-stifler cuffs and in-uniform drawstring tourniquets, may soon be deploying pocket lightsabres in the battle to bring their battle-stricken buddies back alive. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.