The US military’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWD) is developing a weapon that alters atoms using lasers to create a human voice.

The weapon, called the Laser-Induced Plasma Effect, currently resembles a high-pitched screech, but the Department of Defence (DoD) hopes that it will eventually sound human enough to be used as a deterrent during crowd control.

The device creates noise at a specific point in space, meaning soldiers between the weapon and the target are unaffected, as opposed to a speaker which directs sound with a wider scope.

Military scientists created the sound using a femtosecond laser to fire a burst of focused light for 10 to 15 seconds. This rips the electrons from air molecules and creates a ball of plasma, which is then hit with a second nanolaser tuned to an extremely narrow range of wavelengths.

When the plasma field is manipulated in a precise way, sound is produced that resembles a near-human screech.

Head of JNLWD’s technology division David Law told DefenseOne.com: “We’re this close to getting it to speak to us. I need three or four more kilohertz.”

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData

According to the DoD’s Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the aim is to minimise fatalities and permanent injuries to personnel, filling a gap between ‘shouting and shooting’.

The effect is easier to create at a distance: “Range is a function of the optics,” said Law. “The bigger the mirrors, the farther the range.

“A five-inch mirror creates the effect about one kilometre away; an 8-inch mirror, about five kilometres. They’ve created plasmas at 20 or 30 kilometres. This is the first non-lethal weapon that could go out tens of kilometres.”

Such non-lethal weapons are suited to urban terrains containing civilians, or security checkpoints.

The team hopes the device will recreate human voices within the next three years.