Powering Up the Star Wars Universe

We crunched the numbers to calculate how much energy it would take to power up the iconic weapons and ships from the Star Wars universe. So…just how many batteries does it take to power Star Wars? We’ll cover your favorites—lightsabers, blasters, X-wings and yes, even the Death Star.

 

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were lightsabers, there were blasters and there were ships. But all this cool stuff needed power. Lots of power. Let’s check out the power needs of some of your favorite “Star Wars” technology and what it would take to power up the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

To better understand power terminology, we took a look at the common energy usage of things in the world around us. One AA alkaline battery contains 3.9 watt-hours. A car battery contains 722 watt-hours. The Tesla Powerwall has 7 kilowatt-hours. One barrel of oil is equivalent to 1.7 megawatt-hours. A nuclear reactor yields 1,000 megawatts. And for comparison, the Earth’s annual energy consumption is 104,426 terawatt-hours per year.

 

Droids

We can’t forget about the droids that inhabit the “Star Wars” galaxy. They need power to function too.

We don’t have droids as complicated as R2D2 and C3PO just yet, but we do have ASIMO. Billed as “the world’s most advanced humanoid robot,” ASIMO, developed by Honda, stands 4’3” tall and is capable of walking, talking and helping people.

ASIMO is powered by a rechargeable 51.8-volt lithium ion battery that lasts only for an hour. That’s equivalent to 132 AA batteries or 1 car battery.

 

K-2S0

Droids would likely be as energy efficient as humanoids in the “Star Wars” universe, otherwise you would expect slaves or clones to replace them. Assuming a 2.14-meter-tall aluminum alloy body (or similar), we can estimate the weight is 470 pounds each.

To power a K-2S0, it would take 19,946 kilojoules, which is equivalent to 5,537 watt-hours. To put it into perspective, that’s 1,420 AA batteries which equals 8 car batteries, 1 Tesla Powerwall, 1.6 oz of oil per hour or 6 hundredths of a percent of a nuclear reactor.

 

BB-8

Assuming BB-8 has a similar energy efficiency as K-2S0 and knowing that BB-8 is 0.97 meters tall, calculation results are 7.92 x 109 joules, which is equivalent to 2,202 watt-hours. That is equivalent to 565 AA batteries, 4 car batteries, 1 Tesla Powerwall, 1 pint of oil per hour or 2 hundredths of a percent of a nuclear reactor.

 

Lightsabers

Lightsabers are powered by high-output diatium power cells, which are capable of recharging naturally. The blade neither radiates heat nor expends energy until it comes into contact with the solid item it is striking.

Qui-Gon Jinn used his lightsaber to cut into the thick blast doors of Nute Gunray’s bridge. The doors were 2.35 meters tall and over a meter thick. Qui-Gon’s lightsaber cut a circular area approximately 0.9 meters in diameter.

In order to melt 0.87 cubic meters of conventional steel, it would require approximately 1.69 gigajoules of thermal energy. That is equivalent to 469,482 watt-hours, slightly more energy than one lightning bolt.

One lightsaber has the equivalent energy of 120,380 AA batteries (that’s 6,000 pounds of batteries or 250 gallons, enough to fill-up a kiddie pool). It’s also equivalent to 650 car batteries (that’s 26,000 pounds, exceeding the 20,000-pound maximum weight of a single-axle semi-trailer). One lightsaber is also equivalent to 67 Tesla Powerwalls, 0.28 barrels of oil (5.5 gallons of gas), one nuclear reactor or 0.05 seconds of Earth’s power supply.

 

Kylo Ren’s Lightsabers

It doesn’t appear there is any reason to assume that Kylo Ren’s lightsaber was capable of generating any more or less power than any other lightsaber.

In one scene, he is shown using the crossguard to burn through Finn’s jacket, causing a small burn. A small lightsaber-sized second-degree burn requires about 166 joules of energy as a low-end estimate. It seems it could be assumed that the crossguard blades are capable of outputting similar power to the full-size blade.

How many batteries would it take to power a lightsaber that uses 2.5 gigajoules of energy or 694,500 watt hours? The answer is 180,570 AA batteries or 975 car batteries. That’s equivalent to 101 Tesla Powerwalls, 0.42 barrels of oil, 1.5 nuclear reactors or 0.07 seconds of Earth’s power supply.

 

Blasters

According to Han Solo, ancient Jedi weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. Firing bursts of focused particle beam energy (bolts), a blaster gets its power from two main components: Energy-rich blaster gas from a cartridge and a replaceable power pack.

The blaster bolts carry no heat themselves, but materials struck by them deform and fuse like when Princess Leia blasted a hole through a metal grate using an E-11 blaster rifle while escaping from the Death Star.

A hole was blasted big enough for Chewbacca to pass through, probably about 3 feet wide. An estimate on the mass of the grate is approximately 54 kilograms. Roughly 6.34 megajoules is needed to vaporize 1 kilogram of iron, so the blast yielded approximately 342 megajoules.

Power usage is comparable between lightsabers and blasters. Jedi in the “Star Wars” universe have been known to use power packs to charge up their lightsabers.

The 342 megajoules to power a baster is equivalent to 24,360 AA batteries, 132 car batteries, 14 Tesla Powerwalls (that would weigh as much as two cows or half a Bantha), 0.06 barrels of oil (approximately 1 gallon of gas; that’s $2.29 per shot!), 1 nuclear reactor for three blasts a second, or 0.01 seconds of Earth’s power supply.

 

Star Destroyer

It’s one of the most menacing ships in the galaxy. In “Empire Strikes Back,” we see an Imperial Star Destroyer blasting asteroids out of its way. If we approximate the standard asteroid mass as about 33,965,759 kilograms with a heating capacity of iron at 447 J/kg·K, then we could calculate that it would take 30 terajoules (8,333 megawatt-hours) to melt the asteroid.

That’s 2.1 billion AA batteries (in the U.S., 2.9 billion AA batteries are thrown away every year!), 11.5 million car batteries (16 million cars were sold in the U.S. last year), 1.2 million Tesla Powerwalls, 4,901 barrels of oil (at 35 mpg, you could drive around the Earth 130 times or make 6 round-trips to the moon), 10,000 nuclear reactors for a blast every three seconds or 2.5 seconds of Earth’s power supply (enough for 207,000 people for one day).

To vaporize the asteroid, it would take 250 terajoules or 69,400 megawatt-hours. That’s 17.8 billion AA batteries, 96 million car batteries (71 million cars were sold globally last year), 9.9 million Tesla Powerwalls (3 for every apartment in New York City), 41,000 barrels of oil (enough to drive a third of the way to the sun), 270,000 nuclear reactors to fire once every second or 21 seconds of Earth’s power supply (one blast from Earth every 21 seconds).

A turbolaser must yield approximately 3,750 terawatts of power, releasing energy four times that of the Little Boy atomic bomb.

 

X-Wing Fighter

Sometimes it isn’t always about the size of the ship in an intergalactic fight— as long as you are packing the right firepower. In “A New Hope,” when a blast from Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter struck the surface of the Death Star, it created a blast likely powerful enough to have vaporized at least one cubic meter of armor.

Conservative estimates put the output of the four X-wing cannons at approximately 60 gigajoules of energy, which equals 16.67 megawatt-hours. That’s 4.27 million AA batteries (enough batteries to go 8 times around the Large Hadron Collider, and stacked up, they’d reach space twice!), 23,153 car batteries, 2,381 Tesla Powerwalls, 9.08 barrels of oil, 0.01667 running hours of a nuclear power plant or 5 milliseconds of Earth’s power supply.

 

Snowspeeders

The snowspeeders are outfitted with improvised weaponry, including de-icing and heating elements and two laser canons compared to the X-Wing’s four. To power a snowspeeder, it would take 30 gigajoules, which is equivalent to 8.33 megawatt-hours.

That’s equivalent to 2.13 million AA batteries, 11,576 car batteries, 1,190 Tesla Powerwalls, 4.54 barrels of oil, 0.008335 running hours of a nuclear power plant or 2.5 milliseconds of Earth’s power supply.

 

Death Star

Remember when the first incarnation of this formidable battle station destroyed Leia’s home planet of Alderaan?

Using a beam formed by several beams firing from its Concave Dish Composite Beam Superlaser, the Death Star was able to destroy an Earth-sized planet with a binding energy of roughly 2.25 x 1032 joules. Comparatively, our sun produces roughly 3.846 x 1026 watts. How could one moon-sized battle station produce that much power? Using a ‘hypermatter’ reactor, of course.

The 2.25 x 1032 joules needed to power a Death Star converts to 6.25 x 1028 watt-hours. That’s equivalent to 16 octillion AA batteries (stacked end to end, these batteries would measure 84.5 billion light-years, almost enough to stretch across the observable universe of 92 billion light-years), 86 septillion car batteries (80% of the mass of Jupiter), 8 septillion Tesla Powerwalls (150 times the weight of Earth) or 37 sextillion barrels of oil (enough to satisfy the Earth’s oil consumption for 1 trillion years). The Death Star I uses power equivalent to 2 quintillion nuclear reactors to fire once every 24 hours (each blast would require an amount of uranium equal to the mass of Mercury). The Death Star II uses power equivalent to 1 sextillion nuclear reactors to fire once every 3 minutes (seven blasts would generate enough nuclear waste to equal the dwarf planet Ceres at 9.5 x 1020 kg). A Death Star’s energy usage is equivalent to 598 billion times Earth’s power supply. Astronomers estimate there could be 20 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy. Only 29 more galaxies to go!

 

Starkiller Base

“The Force Awakens” shows five planets being simultaneously destroyed by Starkiller. The power calculation would be five times the current power of the Death Star, or 3.12 x 1029 kilowatt-hours.

Also in the movie, we see it draining power from an average-sized star, which certainly has enough nuclear fuel to provide the kind of energy shown. Earth’s sun will provide roughly 3.5 x 1056 kilowatt-hours in its lifetime. There isn’t much more info given in the film that would allow for honing in on a figure between these two numbers. Note that the expected lifespan of the sun is 10 billion years.

To power the Starkiller Base, it would take 1.12 x 1036 joules or 3.12 x 1029 kilowatt-hours. This is equivalent to 80 octillion AA batteries, 430 septillion car batteries, 40 septillion Telsa Powerwalls, 10 quintillion barrels of oil, 1.5 septillion nuclear power plants or 3 trillion times Earth’s power supply.

 

Hyperspace

Aside from powering up the Death Star, hypermatter particles allow a ship to jump to lightspeed without changing its complex mass and energy. We’ve seen the Millennium Falcon make the jump to lightspeed several times. According to physicist Miguel Alcubierre, a warp drive could manipulate space-time, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics to move 10 times faster than the speed of light.

To make a warp drive, it was initially estimated you would need a minimum amount of energy almost equal to the mass of the planet Jupiter. More recent studies have reduced the energy requirement to be about the mass of the Voyager 1, approximately 700 kilograms.

Using E=mc2, 700 kilograms is equal to 62.9 exajoules, which is 15 billion tons of TNT explosives or 17,500 terawatt-hours. That’s 4.5 quadrillion AA batteries, 23 trillion car batteries, 2.5 trillion Tesla Powerwalls, 10 billion barrels of oil (1% of all the oil ever produced), 17.5 million nuclear reactors or 16 percent of Earth’s power supply (that’s one jump every two months!).

 

Ebates Star Wars Stores

ThinkGeek – Star Wars Apparel for Adults & Kids
BuyCostumes – Star Wars Halloween Costumes
LEGO – Star Wars Lego Toys and Products
GameStop – Select Star Wars Universe Games

Sources:

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lightsaber
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Blaster
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Hypermatter
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Ion_drive
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Diatium_power_cell
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Power_converter
http://www.theforce.net/swtc/power.html
http://www.theforce.net/swtc/units.html
http://www.galacticempirewars.com/blaster-firepower-three
http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/FiveMinutes.html
http://www.stardestroyer.net/tlc/Power/
http://asimo.honda.com
https://physics.le.ac.uk/journals/index.php/pst/article/view/328/195
http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/military-robots/atlas-drc-robot-is-75-percent-new-completely-unplugged
http://io9.com/5876473/how-much-energy-would-the-death-star-require-to-destroy-earth
http://www.space.com/17628-warp-drive-possible-interstellar-spaceflight.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AA_battery
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_battery
http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=667&t=6
http://www.space.com/24073-how-big-is-the-universe.html
http://phys.org/news/2009-05-oil.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_magnitude
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2015/01/05/automakers-report-december-sales/21277199/
http://www.statista.com/statistics/200002/international-car-sales-since-1990/
http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2015/01/2014-usa-new-vehicle-sales-figures-by-model.html
http://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/On-Site-Storage-of-Nuclear-Waste
http://science.time.com/2013/11/04/so-much-for-earth-being-special-there-could-be-20-billion-just-like-it/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-trailer_truck
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Death_Star
http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/67785/fuel-use-gen-iii-nuclear-power
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/K-2SO
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/All_Terrain_Armored_Cargo_Transport

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. Raul September 19, 2015

    Where are you getting the “standard asteroid mass” from?

  2. Mary December 4, 2015

    Very detailed post. I got a lot of information. Thanks, but wonder what is the best battery?

  3. Peter M. Earwood March 9, 2016

    Your post is very detailed and clear thanks to your enough information and these vivid pictures. However, finally, how many batteries does it take to power Star Wars? I don’t still know.

  4. Chase V May 4, 2016

    Awesome information, as an industrial battery company powering the Star Wars Universe would be a dream come true!
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  11. Joe July 7, 2017

    This is a magnificent infographic. The Death Star calcs are a little bit off though; it is a common error that people make where the binding energy of the planet is taken and substituted for what the Death Star’s blast must have exerted. But given that the visual evidence shows it hurtling most of the planet’s mass off into space at 6% of lightspeed, the actual energy is MUCH greater – a YouTuber called Firmus Piett calculated the blast at 250 sextillion megatons. Yes, that’s 5,000,000,000,000,000,000 Tsar Bombas.

    • Swapna Dhamdhere at Ebates July 7, 2017

      Woah! Thanks for the correction, Joe 🙂