Chinese media recently reported about a new high-tech laser assault rifle that can allegedly fire an energy beam that cannot not be seen by the naked eye, but can cause “instant carbonization” of human tissue from up to half a mile away.
Called ZKZM-500, the laser rifle was developed by scientists at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shaanxi province, and is apparently ready for mass production, with the first units scheduled to be given to anti-terrorism squads in the Chinese Armed Police. It has been described as a non-lethal weapon that can be used in various situations, like hostage situations, where police would fire it through windows at targets and temporarily disable them while other teams moved in to free the hostages. It definitely wouldn’t be the first time that a sci-fi technology became reality, but in this particular case, many believe that laser rifles are still impossible in real life.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle is about the size of an AK47 and is powered by a a rechargeable lithium battery pack similar to those found in smartphones. It has a a capacity of 1,000 laser shots – each shorter than 2 seconds. While the weapon could not kill a person with just one shot, pressing the fire button continuously could allegedly cut a whole through a person’s body.
While ZKZM Laser, the technology company owned by the institute in Xian that has been working on this laser rifle, released footage of it being tested on a rooftop in Xian, many people think it’s nothing more that propaganda. And they do make some interesting points.
“There’s just no way that a laser powered by a lithium-ion battery that a person could carry would be capable of producing the kind of heat described at point blank range, let alone at 800 meters,” TechCrunch wrote. “That’s because of attenuation. Lasers, unlike bullets, scatter as they progress, making them weaker and weaker. Attenuation is non-trivial at anything beyond, say, a few dozen meters. By the time you get out to 800, the air and water the beam has traveled through enough to reduce it a fraction of its original power.”
The SCMP article actually mentions the fact that in 2009 “a US attempt to design a handheld laser gun resulted in something that ‘only works on nudists’ because its beam was too weak to even penetrate a shirt,” but adds that China has since taken the technology to new heights, by investing massively in research and development.
Can the ZKZM-500 burn through both clothing and human tissue from half a mile away? Its developers claim it can, but there are those who say that they would be surprised if it could pop a party balloon.