A common weapon in science fiction is the Molecular Disrupting Beam, which disintegrates anything caught by the beam into basic atoms and molecules with no wound or gash, more as if a portion of the targeted material or person simply ceased to exist.

It comes with many names, WH40k calls them Gauss Flayers, Niven calls it the Wunderland Treatymaker, Ender's Game calls it Little Doctor...

Yet all seems to be abject handwavium and unobtainium, and there has been no true patent or design.

Thus, I ask, what are your ideas on making a working Disruptor, with only current science and resources?

Some minor unobtainium (please specify) can be allowed, but no utter handwavium (no fictional physics).

An extra assumption is that all the resources needed (energy, particles, etc...) is present.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A 10-kg sphere of plutonium-239 isn't exactly a 'beam', per say, but it will disintegrate anything nearby to basic atoms. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Jan 28, 2020 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed things have to be surprisingly close. Look how much of the infrastructure survived at ground zero of the trinity tests, for example. Also, vapourising stuff is quite a lot easier than atomising it... $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2020 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ Independently on wich tech it based Molecular disraptor would no way create "no wunds or gash". You see, all you bare atoms are still there. And, say for water, they are highly pressed gases, with a tendency to react each other to form those molecules again. It means a great explosion - no less. $\endgroup$
    – ksbes
    Jan 28, 2020 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ Technically, Enderverse calls it the "molecular disruption device"... and it causes anything caught in the beam to lose cohesion, followed by any matter that was close enough to that, followed by... in a runaway reaction in which a single device can destroy a planet. Or a Dyson sphere. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Jan 28, 2020 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


the Molecular Disrupting Beam, which disintegrates anything caught by the beam to basic atoms and molecules,

Laser is the answer.

  • It comes into the shape of a beam
  • With sufficient enough power it reduces anything which hits into a plasma.

The above is already used in what is called laser ablation

laser ablation

  • $\begingroup$ That's a useful diagram, if a little mspainty. Might have to hunt down or cobble together a neater one for the next time I'm grumbling about laser weapons and things that claim to be laser weapons but are a bit ineffective. $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2020 at 10:54
  • $\begingroup$ So, Disintegtators are more or less no different than VERY high-powered lasers. Granted. $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2020 at 9:24

disintegrates anything caught by the beam into basic atoms and molecules

Yep, seems feasible...

with no wound or gash, more as if a portion of the targeted material or person simply ceased to exist.

that's a bit of a bigger ask...

no utter handwavium (no fictional physics).

...aaaaaand that just about puts the nails in the coffin of that idea.

You just can't vanish stuff. You can transmute it into other things which either leave the area of effect promptly or are rather hard to see, but those things are exceptionally dangerous.

As a very quick and dirty baseline figure, consider that an "average" adult human weighs ~62kg and is perhaps 65% water. It takes about 11MJ to raise that to boiling point, and then a further 91MJ to turn it to steam. That steam with have an initial pressure of the order of 46MPa, which is quite a lot higher than atmospheric pressure... that means it will expand. Rapidly. Boom. Meat BLEVE. And that's just boiling the water without worrying about any other materials or even breaking any chemical bonds. If you wanted to turn the whole of a human body to gas you'd release similar amounts of energy to detonating the same mass of high explosives... which after all, are all about promptly turning a solid into a gas.

It gets even worse if you try and transmute them into energy (or rather, photons) by annihilating them with antimatter (or if you had the right sort of unobtanium, such as a load of suitable massive monopoles, catalysing baryon decay... the end result will be pretty similar, though the latter will release half as much energy because you don't need all that antimatter). About half the energy of annihilation is carried off as neutrinos which are effectively harmless and lost forever, but the rest of it... well, its about 5.7x1018 joules (about 1.3 gigatonnes of TNT equivalent).

Other things like throwing them into a black hole (or cloud of micro black holes) or stranglets would kinda more or less make them disappear, but that has other side effects like massive gamma release from the strangelets and the immense nuclear fire of evaporating black holes (or the issues associated with dropping a multi billion tonne black hole onto a planet, which may make the locals cross and reduce property values).

This leaves you with two bits of handwavium that might fit your needs. Maybe.

If it were possible to construct small wormholes, that would remain stable, and that were not so colossally massive as to be incredibly hazardous by themselves, maybe you could throw one at someone or something and have it removed. They'd still exist at the other end of the wormhole, of course, but they needn't be in the same shape as when they went in and the key requirement of having them vanish has been accomplished.

The second would be a way to efficiently convert energy or matter to neutrinos. Neutrinos barely interact with anything at all, and if you could annihilate someone and convert most of any resulting energy into neutrinos, they'd effectively vanish from existence in any practical sense.

I can't think of any means of facilitating the latter. It is almost entirely magic, as far as I'm concerned, but it isn't obviously impossible on the face of things. Just probably impossible, and almost certainly impractical if it were somehow possible.

Honestly, you could just shoot them with a normal gun. Why make life difficult for yourself?


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .