Viability of plasma weaponry

I want to bring back a fusion gun (as a plasma gun) with some refluffing, and do some refluffing first to see would it be enough to count hand-held plasma weaponry as realistic or not. So a bit of discussion, anyone?

The proofs of concept!

The old 1993-s project MARAUDER (just to introduce overall possibility of such a weapon)

Specifically, the objective of the program was the acceleration of a toroid of 0.5-2.0 mg plasma to a kinetic energy level on the order of megajoules using a 5-10 MJ coaxial gun design.[3]

As of 1993 the project appeared to be in the early experimental stages. The weapon was able to produce doughnut-shaped rings of plasma and balls of lightning that exploded with devastating thermal and mechanical effects when hitting their target and produced pulse of electromagnetic radiation that could scramble electronics.[6]

The project’s initial success led to it becoming classified, and only a few references to MARAUDER appeared after 1993. No information about the fate of the project has been published after 1995.

Another article basically about the same

… Using the 9.4 MJ SHIVA STAR fast capacitor bank to accelerate the toroids, the authors expect to achieve kinetic energies greater than 1 MJ. … The simulations demonstrate the formation of the torus including reconnection of the poloidal magnetic field components. Number densities in the toroids are on the order of 10^16 per cm3, and magnetic induction is on the order of 1 Tesla. A series of calculations shows that only a limited range of discharge energy will produce toroids. Too little
energy will not push the plasma through the initial, injected poloidal field; too much will not allow a good reconnection.

So a device for accelerating plasma to extremely high velocities is possible. But what minimal size can it be?

This paper from here states about required pulsed power able to be produced by a roughly 1 cubic meter generator. AND it tells

The plasma rings [low-mass of 10 nanograms] were accelerated in 0.5 m diameter/6 m long coaxial railgun.

These numbers bring in a general undestanding of the scale. This device was capable to accelerate plasma to 2x10^6 m/sec (final muzzle velocity 0.5x10^6 m/sec) with 10 kJ of kineric energy. And it was in 1991 with 1991’s technology level without any alien compounds.

This extremely interesting paper from 2009 with a topic

A new coaxial plasma gun is described. The long term objective is to accelerate 100–200 microg of plasma with density above 1017 cm−3 to greater than 200 km/s with a Mach number above 10

Among other things it describes

kinetic energy density contours for a 200 microg, 200 km/s case for a full-scale “wasp” profile. The total gun length is 75 cm, muzzle diameter is 15 cm, and the diameter at the angled injection point is 33 cm.

It’s a size of an accelerator, there is also a capacitor bank (see below), vacuum chamber etc. But still.

Overall image

Modeling similar to that of the last section predicted the half-scale gun could accelerate 80–100 micro g of polyethylene plasma to 90 km/swith a 9 micro s current pulse of 190 kA. The experimental results described below confirm these performance predictions.

We will need to build PFNs capable of driving about 0.8 MA for 8–10 micro s to achieve full performance

So the power is one of the key parameters impacting performance.

A combined total of almost 0.7 MA is driven through the 112 sparkgaps generating the injected plasma

They also say

Lastly, we will need to work with full-scale guns. Such a gun has recently been fabricated and will soon be mounted onto a new much larger vacuum chamber. The old vacuum chamber used to date is far too small to contain the plasma plume of the full-scale gun. The larger vacuum chamber has a diameter of 1 m and is nearly 2 m long, allowing for much higher energy plumes

Simulations were described in which blow-by was seen to be avoidable and which attained the ultimate goal of 200 g at 200 km/s. Experiments with a first-generation half-scale gun show that the gun performs roughly as designed

So larger vacuum chamber = larger plasma bolt. But there are impressive results already.

This article from the same author is about plasma accelerator-driven fusion with impressive results.


Size improvement

As we see, total device size was significantly reduced. In both cases a lot of total size is taken by pulse-forming network (basically, capacitors), and they can be significantly reduced in size using the same energy storing technology as plutonium cells.

This video from 2013 shows creation of relatively stable plasma ring “hotter
than the Sun” in the atmosphere using pretty modest amount of equipment, pointing out both power and size can be significantly improved.


So, I think plasma weaponry is possible and with some extrapolation could be potentially scaled down (with help of our advanced pre-Cataclysm technology) to be hand-held, like laser rifle and laser pistol.

I don’t want to re-introduce cut-your-arm-off CBM, it’s really sci-fi stuff better suited to a mod, but a plasma rifle (one may call it a cannon) is a viable thing IMHO.

If it passes realism check, I gonna open PR with a bulky hefty energy-consuming weapon. It may run on UPS power only (as practically every gas can be turned into plasma) or require nitrogen/acetylene/other gas tanks to operate. Description would say something like “PPA-5: Plasma Accelerator, developed by Philips Company. Looks like an odd mix of jackhammer and hefty carbine bloated with metal parts.This experimental device uses highly advanced capacitor banks to create a torus of superheated plasma and accelerate it to incredible speed.

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Cool, that’s a much better foundation than just the MARAUDER stuff, even though it looks like the unclassified gun is for fusion research.

Two bits that jump out at me. MARAUDER was a specialized anti-electronics weapon, maybe keep it in that niche as a robot killer? Also maybe anti-power-armor.
Please don’t do the prototype thing, if it’s robust enough to be usable for the player it needs to at least have been in field trials or something in the military, and to be common enough for there to be a chance in hell o vthe player finding one, it needs to have been issued.

I considered adding an EMP blast to an area along with a regular explosion and starting flames.
I thought about dedicated anti-electronics weapon, this thing looks promising, I guess I’ll dig into that later (and refluff our electroshock weapons accordingly).

I still have to figure out plasma gun damage and range and such (will do today), but in overall it would be not extremely powerful (not like Star Wars or District 9 weaponry) and deal combined explosive and EMP damage with high armor-piercing, so its niche could be an anti-electronic anti-armor (hello skeletal juggernaut, hello Beagle) “grenade launcher”.

A plasma “blade” might be interesting, plasma cutters as they currently exist operate basically along the lines of heating compressed air using an electric current and using the ionised air jet as a channel to conduct electricity and complete a circuit.
I’ve had quite a bit of experience in using plasma cutters, even with an unconnected circuit the heat they generate is quite impressive, still able to melt though thinner sheets of metal as there will still be a circuit completed between the inner and outer rings inside the torch itself (thinner compared to the 3 - 4cm plates even a naff plasma cutter can go through with relative ease).
With the technological progress shown in regards to power storage and generation in Cataclysm the technological progress of plasma technology should of also improved quite substantially as they are the main limiting factors.

An electrolaser seems like it could be a reasonable device, but I feel like it would be bad at taking on robots or power suits since they would tend to be grounded, I don’t see anything about it that would defeat that.