The intersection of science fiction and science fact becomes apparent when considering the chemistry behind the galaxy far, far away in the Star Wars universe. Professor Alex Baker from the University of Warwick delves into the captivating inspiration that real-world reactions have had on the iconic franchise. From the freezing of Han Solo to the colors of lightsabers, Professor Baker explores the chemical elements that underpin various aspects of the Star Wars universe.

Professor Baker highlights the common elements found in both the Star Wars realm and here on Earth. For instance, liquid oxygen, utilized in rocket engines in the Star Wars galaxy, serves a similar purpose in our universe. By igniting fuels with oxygen in rocket engines, tremendous thrust is produced. Professor Baker demonstrates this concept through experiments like the ‘purple cannon fire’ reaction, showcasing the explosive nature of oxygen when combined with fuel.

Moreover, sodium, a familiar element on Earth, is used as a fuel in the Star Wars universe. When sodium reacts with water, it produces hydrogen gas, often resulting in explosive reactions. Similarly, chemicals containing nitrogen play a significant role in warfare within the Star Wars galaxy. Baradium nitrate, a fictional element, finds its place in Imperial stormtroopers’ kit, thermal detonators, and star ship fuel. The violent reactions of nitric acid with nitrogen-containing compounds underscore the destructive potential of these elements.

Cryogens, such as liquid nitrogen and solid carbon dioxide, are used for freezing objects on Earth. These cryogens potentially inspired the iconic scene of Han Solo’s freezing in the Star Wars saga. Additionally, the bright colors of lightsabers are reproduced through flame test experiments, showcasing how different elements emit varying colors when heated. The science behind lightsaber colors resembles that of fireworks, with elements releasing light of distinct colors based on their energy levels.

Professor Baker elucidates the process behind the colors of lightsabers by explaining electron excitation in atoms. When elements are heated, electrons become excited and jump to higher energy states within the atom. As these electrons return to their ground state, they emit energy in the form of heat and light. The unique colors of lightsabers correspond to the energy levels of the atoms, with bright blues indicating higher energy levels than reds. This distinction adds a fascinating layer to the symbolism of lightsabers in the Star Wars universe.

The chemistry behind the Star Wars universe offers a captivating blend of imagination and scientific principles. Professor Baker’s exploration of real-world reactions provides insights into the plausible foundations of iconic elements within the franchise. By drawing parallels between our universe and the fictional galaxy far, far away, the connection between science fiction and reality becomes even more intriguing. The chemistry of Star Wars serves as a testament to the creativity and inspiration that transcends the boundaries of our known world.


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