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There is a surprisingly diverse range of handheld weapons for use in combat, beyond the typical gun-related firearms. I'm looking for a cooler way to destroy enemies, and though flamethrowers are interesting, I'd like to not incinerate people, but liquefy them.

The requirements:

  • The weapon must be handheld, though relevant support equipment can be carried (e.g. a flamethrower has fuel tanks).
  • The weapon must turn enemies into . . . well, something rather liquid-y.
  • The weapon must be built using today's technology.
  • The weapon must liquefy a person in less than one minute.

So, how can I liquefy my enemies?


I should have explained the backstory here, and the reason why I need this weapon to do what it does. In this particular world, the folks in power want to harvest as much genetic material as possible from the population. Liquefying someone makes it easy to get an arbitrarily large amount of material from a (dead) person, while leaving the rest to be disposed of somehow.

Some of the methods here will damage genetic material, certainly. But there will still be some material left, so those ideas are fine.

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    $\begingroup$ Do their bones have to be liquefied or just the soft bits? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 5 '15 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK The bones, too - at least, as much as possible. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ Not hand held, but a wood chipper would work... $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 5 '15 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ I've posted a more general question on Chemistry.SE which may provide chemical answers. Is there any chemical/mixture which could liquidize a person in a couple minutes or less? $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Aug 5 '15 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ In Ant-Man the main villain used his prototype shrinker to liquefy his targets. $\endgroup$ – Zikato Aug 5 '15 at 23:28

17 Answers 17

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Fluoroantimonic acid (HSbF6) gun

Fluoroantimonic acid is a colorless super acid (Looks just like water!), even more corrosive than sulfuric acid.

Fluoroantimonic acid is 2×10^19 (20 quintillion) times stronger than 100% sulfuric acid. Fluoroantimonic acid has a H0 (Hammett acidity function) value of -31.3.

It dissolves glass and many other materials and protonates nearly all organic compounds (such as everything in your body). This acid is stored in PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) containers. Basically, the only thing this doesn't melt is teflon.

I'm not 100% sure this will satisfy your 1 minute requirement but this stuff is so strong it probably will.

In order to weaponize this, we use PTFE to build a watergun - make sure this watergun is VERY well designed. (Teflon coated gloves recommended while using this weapon). It's as simple as that. As an added bonus, since you're building a squirt gun it won't look like a weapon till it's too late. Your enemies will laugh at you when you whip out your watergun until the stream of acid hits them - then you get to watch them burn... and melt... Might I suggest choosing a supersoaker as a frame for the design? You can use carry extra "acid packs" for easy reloading. These acid packs also make for great multipurpose tools - if you need to cut a hole through the roof, draw a circle using the acid and let it do its magic!

Alternatively, you can put up buckets of this stuff on top of doors, and wait for your enemies to open the door - classic prank style!

Or, acid spray frisbees. Simply have a spinning object that you throw out while you duck behind cover, and let the liquid stored in the center propagate outwards via centrifugal force. Have a timer that's hooked up to a button (maybe .5 second delay) that opens the sides of the disk to allow the liquid through. Carry these like grenades.

Reference: http://chemistry.about.com/od/acids/f/What-Is-The-World-S-Strongest-Superacid.htm

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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I've asked it on Chemistry.SE chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/34746/… in the hopes that someone will be able to tell us - I'm not nearly smart enough to know how to do the math there. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 5 '15 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ I seriously doubt this would work as advertised. Just because an acid is stronger doesn't mean it's going to dissolve everything instantly - at a certain point, you're not going to protonate the heck out of your reagents any faster than you already are. $\endgroup$ – etherealflux Aug 5 '15 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ Be careful about spilling. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 5 '15 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure much genetic material stays available after that? $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 6 '15 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ That squirt gun is just as dangerous to the user as it is to the targets. You know how squirt guns tend to leak or drip small (and sometimes not so small) amounts of water onto the user's hands? $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Aug 6 '15 at 21:11
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This weapon already exists. It's called a Rocket Propelled Grenade.

There is no way to use acid or lasers to melt a person and their bones in under 60 seconds. The thing about the human body is, it's already mostly liquid, you just need to destroy all the bits holding that liquid in.

A rocket propelled grenade (RPG) is a high explosive attached to a rocket. The high explosive will shred, break, and disintegrate all the solid bits of the person you fire it at. They will be, for all intents and purposes, liquified. Just because a liquid has been spread over 50 square meters does not mean it is not still a liquid.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for "Just because a liquid has been spread over 50 square meters does not mean it is not still a liquid." $\endgroup$ – justhalf Aug 6 '15 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ simple and effective.. $\endgroup$ – RicoRicochet Aug 7 '15 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ Particularly effective if you switch the warhead for a Focused Lethality Munition such as DIME, you lose fragmentation and will have to aim better. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dense_Inert_Metal_Explosive $\endgroup$ – Andrew Aug 9 '15 at 0:01
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Ultrasonic Gun

It's well known that with the correct frequency applied that sound, and sound alone can shatter a wine glass. These demonstrations are always spectacular, so let's build a weapon on the same principle.

Assumptions

Since we are working with sound, above a certain threshold, a sound wave will just pulverize the target. The CDC lists 10psi of overpressure as

Most people are killed

so let's use that as our upper bound for power requirements for this weapon since we want to liquify the person, not instantly pulverize them.

Further, we assume that we can overcome the high natural elasticity of skin to cause it to liquify.

Safety Concerns

The OP states that this will be human mounted weapon so safety precautions need to be made to ensure the weapon carrier doesn't get liquified too. While ultrasound is still sound, it is "aim-able" in that pointing the ultrasonic transducer sends sound in that direction and not anywhere else. As long as the weapon bearer isn't "looking down the barrel" then they should be okay.

Power Requirements

The 10psi overpressure threshold set out in the Assumption section is 700 times the limits of human hearing (130db). Speakers that generate 110db of sound often require thousands of watts. Granted, the energy from normal speakers is spread across a much wider area than an ultrasonic transducer would but I think that sets a decent lower bound on the power requirements for this this weapon. Given that also don't know the power requirements to achieve destructive resonance in human tissues, the power supply may be asked to provide megawatts of power but since we don't know how much power it takes to liquify human flesh, let's just hand-wave and call it good.

Regular speakers just don't have the power output required or the directionality that we want, so let's go with ultrasonic transducers. Let us assume that a megawatt class ultrasonic transducer can be created and matched to adequate heat dissipation tech.

Frequency Requirements

There is no one frequency that the human body resonates at, or perhaps there is but the power requirements to do so amount to getting hit by the blast wave of high explosives.

At a minimum, you only need to know two frequencies: muscle and skin to count as "liquifying the target". Muscle alone will just make the target fallover. Skin alone just make the target look naked. This leaves the horrifying prospect that the brain are still intact but the target's body is liquifying. If the nerve endings are still functional then.....Death shortly follows but looking down to watch your body turning to liquid.....that's nightmare fuel.

Killing someone may not be as effective as just maiming them by liquifying their skin. Wounded soldiers take significantly more resources to treat/transport than a dead soldier.

Time for Effect

I have no numbers but I think the effects would happen very quickly, just a few seconds. This makes it an effective battlefield weapon because you can't expect a target to stay still for a minute or so.

Weapon Design

Since an ultrasonic transducer by definition emits sound at greater than 20Khz, we will need a second transducer to use interference to generate the target frequency. Both transducers can be fitted to a gun-like mount linked to the power supply backpack. Heat dissipation from the power source and the transducers will be important considerations. Add a control to allow the weapon carrier to select a target frequency with some presets for skin, bone, etc. However, access to the raw frequency permits the carrier to experiment with finding the frequency for stone or metal.

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    $\begingroup$ Where was this when I was asking how to build a Sound Gun? $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 5 '15 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know. I might have been there all along. You should go check ;) $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 5 '15 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ I found this site while answering the other question about sonic weapons. It's useful to get some calculations done. For instance, the sound intensity for a 10 psi wave would be 11.8 megawatts per square meter. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Aug 5 '15 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't that "overpressure" pretty much what an explosive does? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 6 '15 at 4:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Yes. Overpressure and heat are the effects of high explosives. The hope of the Ultrasound Gun is to be more focused, with lower power requirements and without the heat of explosives. $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 6 '15 at 9:06
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Pesky door-to-door salesmen keep calling? Can't get those neighbours to stop asking for sugar? Really not looking to join a religion right now?

For dealing with all your unwanted guests we present the "blend-o-matic" 2020:

enter image description here

No, not like that, like this:

enter image description here

Your unwanted guests will drop through the carefully disguised trapdoor and be liquidized before you know it. The environmentally friendly option to dispose of unwanted callers, you can fertilize your roses with the remains!

Ok, I admit - that's not hand held. The idea just popped into my head though. :)

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    $\begingroup$ You can use off the shelf equipment too, like a wood chipper. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 5 '15 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't that top picture a coffee pot, not a blender? $\endgroup$ – adelphus Aug 5 '15 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @adelphus Why don't you look in side and see for yourself? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 5 '15 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ That is definitely a mocha pot. Even if a mocha pot does give a stronger cup than a brewer or french press it will not liquify even american coffee drinkers. $\endgroup$ – papirtiger Aug 6 '15 at 0:12
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Bolas made of C4

Bolas, probably not explosive

Pull the detonator pin, throw it so it wraps around the enemy, and watch as they are turned into a fine mist.

As an added bonus you can kill or injure anyone close to the target.

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If you don't need to go to far into immediate hard science, but more fiction (you question has no science tag):

Nanobot Swarm Weapons

To liquify you enemy you need to destroy enough tissue, which is basically liquid filled (cells are mostly liquids surrounded by a membrane). If you manage to do this, your enemy will be "melting". Therefore carry a weapon releasing a swarm of millions of microscopic nanobots destroying your enemy's tissue.

The nanobots could be powered by your launcher, or refill their energy by partly digesting the broken tissue. After a successful attack or a predefined time, the nanobots could disassemble to avoid any further harm.

Depending on what effect you desire, the nanobots could work on soft tissue only (skin and flesh), or be more rigorous (skin, flesh and bones).

If you like, you could even give them some swarm intelligence: Harm only the one I pointed my weapon at, harm only enemies,...

Speed and looks of your launcher are pretty arbitrary, you could choose here whatever you like... Disintegrating a body in subsecond scale or over hours, launching your nanobots from a pistol, a trap or a bottle - everything might work.

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The best chemical I could find for the job comes from an answer on Chemistry.SE by @KeithS (emphasis mine)

The standard body-dissolving chemical is lye aka sodium hydroxide. The main source is drain clog remover, because most drain clogs are formed by hair and other bio-gunk that accumulates naturally when humans shower, exfoliate etc. It works, even though the body's overall chemistry is slightly to the basic side of neutral (about 7.35-7.4), because the hydroxide anion is a strong proton acceptor. That means that it strips hydrogen atoms off of organic molecules to form water (alkaline hydrolysis, aka saponification), and as a result, those organic molecules are turned into simpler molecules with lower melting points (triglycerides are turned into fatty acids, saturated fats are dehydrogenated to form unsaturated fats, alkanes become alcohols, etc). Sodium hydroxide is also a ready source of the sodium ion; sodium salts are always water-soluble (at least I can't think of a single one that isn't). The resulting compounds are thus either liquids or water-soluble alcohols and salts, which flush down the drain. What's left is the brittle, insoluble calcium "shell" of the skeleton; if hydrolyzed by sodium hydroxide, the resulting calcium hydroxide ("slaked lime") won't dissolve completely but is relatively easy to clean up.

Further research into Alkaline hydrolysis seems to indicate that it could dissolve a body in the matter of hours.

However, I don't believe it could be made into some sort of hand-sized weapon that works within that timeframe. This is because the body is immersed in the chemical, pressurized, and heated.


Unless your handheld weapons can somehow create pressurized, heated fields of space around your targets and then introduce a bunch of sodium hydroxide into the field - you probably won't be able to rely on chemicals alone to turn your enemies to goo.

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Railgun. There's no better proof that organic matter has a high water content than watching high-speed film of bullets entering fruit. The fruit literally explodes.

All that's needed to do the same to a human is to up the energy and the rate of fire. The movie Elysium does this when the main character gets ahold of a "Chemrail" rifle (the name likely referring to some hybrid of chemical and magrail propulsion of the projectile). The weapon, firing hypersonic 20mm bullets, disintegrates one of the bad guys from the other side of a bulkhead wall of the space station.

Such a weapon would likely need augmented strength to control its recoil, either using a ground anchor (bipod/tripod) or a powered exoskeleton as was used in Elysium. In a fictional universe that would be an easy handwave, as would the fact that the real world doesn't have a man-portable railgun (current technology is working toward a weapon that could fit inside a naval cruiser hull).

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If the point of the exercise is to extract genetic material from the resulting pool of human, then most, or all, of the chemical attacks listed here will be of little use. In the process of turning your human into a pool of liquid you will have destroyed most of the genetic material contained in said human.

Your best solutions are going to be mechanical, or possibly biological, in nature. None of the mechanical options, except nanobot swarms or sound waves are going to be hand held and any biological, i.e. viral/bacterial/prion, are going to take way more than a minute.

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I propose using a device that will produce an extremely strong magnetic field. Fields in excess of $10^5$ Tesla ($10^9$ Gauss) will instantly kill people:

Fields in excess of $10^9$ Gauss, however, would be instantly lethal. Such fields strongly distort atoms, compressing atomic electron clouds into cigar shapes, with the long axis aligned with the field, thus rendering the chemistry of life impossible.

People killed in this way will have become one big liquid mess, because most of the body consist of water while everything is kept in place using the larger molecules which are not stable and prone to falling apart outside of living organisms.

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    $\begingroup$ Is that doable with today's technology (or close to it)? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 6 '15 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Afaik, not even close. Even the LHC tops out at less than 10 Tesla. As per Wikipedia, the current record is at 34 Tesla. The figure given in this answer is ... absurd, in the sense that it's not reached even by most neutron stars. So the answer proposes... I don't know, a black hole generator maybe. (And then we talk about how to restrict the effect to small areas...) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 6 '15 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael The record is 28MG / 2800 Tesla. $\endgroup$ – Luna Aug 7 '15 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Explosively pumped pulse generator: probably the 34 is for continuous operating fields. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 8 '15 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ The OP specified (near) today's technology level, so this is not an Answer. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 8 '15 at 10:57
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I can think of two ways off the top of my head.

  1. a large injection of the active piece in spider venom that liquefies the preys insides so it can suck them out like a slurpy. (after adding in the 1 minute time frame this one is much less likely)

  2. A sound wave weapon that can breakdown bonds in the body. Some frequencies might resonate with bones, shattering them. High frequencies can disrupt a lot of things in the human body. Might even be able to make your brains run out your ears. Distance would need to be fairly close for best application. Too close and too much power and they might explode like a water balloon (a hotdog in a microwave), and you might get some on you...

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  • $\begingroup$ Would the first work in less than 60 seconds, and would the second one truly liquefy a person, as opposed to just shattering bones? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 you added in the 60 sec. while I was writing my answer. I'll try to see what I can find but I could have sworn I read something about sound being able to liquify years ago. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Aug 5 '15 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, bad timing on my part. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 16:36
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Here's a couple of potentials:

1: Large doses of radiation Ok, this is pushing the definitions of 'liquefy' and will actually very quickly move into the realms of 'just burn them to death', but a suitably epic dose of radiation (We're talking obscene levels of radiation here. Sort of the 'stand next to a solar flare while touching the sun' levels) will basically cause enough massive damage to an opponents cells that they're reduced to a molten goop. Of course that same epic dose of radiation will cause all sorts of other havoc, notably setting fire to the goop. Oh, and it'll effectively be a 1 shot.

2: Disease Good for large populations, bad for easily controllable. A couple of vials of engineered, airborne flesh eating virus will reduce a city to bones and goo in short order. Not particularly 'cool' though. More 'icky'

3: Sound It's only even vaguely possible with some physical science handwaving, but extremely high frequency, high amplitude, very well designed directional speakers could potentially cause the kind of massive trauma injuries usually seen in car crashes. IE: your kidneys turn to soup, but you don't realise it until a little bit later. Could lead to interesting consequences in the case of a headshot, but I'm not sure you could get the design down small enough to be considered handheld. Some examples of this are already used in a crowd-control capacity (obviously without the soup-making)

4: Acid

I feel this is a bit cliché, but an acid (or alkali) thrower could cause some very nasty liquification. Side effects include but aren't limited to: Spontaneous valve malfunction, noxious vapours, spontaneous combustion when exposed to other elements, and worst of all: splashback.

Goo(d) hunting!

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  • $\begingroup$ Cool ideas, but I have the same response to these as I had to bowlturner's first suggestion: Would they work in less than one minute? I added that requirement in rather late, I'll admit. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 16:35
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Liquefying the bones is a problem without corrosive chemicals and they would take time to eat through the body.

I suggest a powerful laser. It auto-detects the shape of the victim and scans back and forth creating incredibly thin slices. For a fraction of a second the victim will continue to stand upright as though not sliced. However the body's own enzymes will immediately start to digest all tissues (a form of apoptosis) . The body will slump and form a pool on the ground. There may be some solids left but they will be very finely sliced like a specimen for a microscope slide and so have little strength.

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    $\begingroup$ Please, read up on laser effects. As the laser cuts, it vaporizes water in the flesh and the vapor explosively blows out the cut, shielding it from further damage until the ejecta has cleared the beam. Starting at one end of the body and making repeated cuts will have the effect of blowing the detached parts away from the remaining bulk. Hollywood CGI effects are not a substitute for physics. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Aug 5 '15 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast - There was no requirement for hard-science or even science in the tags. I think that Hollywood CGI is fair enough. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 5 '15 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK Science is expected of all answers on Worldbuilding unless expressly said otherwise. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel - I find this difficult to understand. I had a very successful question about a dumbbell-shaped world. The best answers noted the physics problems but set them aside and answered as though such a world was possible. No-one complained, least of all me. Maybe there should be a discussion on Meta about this? In any case we all know that an ultrasonic gun will be just as ineffective. Why was that not criticised? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 5 '15 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK acknowledging the issues with a solution is sometimes accepted, just depending on the situation. I am just a 3rd party observing, but from my viewpoint it seems like your answer is stating that in the real world, the laser would work like you say it does - which is not the case. (Which is what WhatRoughBeast tries to point out) $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Aug 5 '15 at 19:28
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You don't ask for science in your tags.

I suggest a very powerful vacuum cleaner. You suck the enemy through a small nozzle and collect them in the extra-large waterproof bag. To avoid the nozzle getting clogged you must force them at gunpoint to remove all clothing before being sucked. Unfortunately the bones would remain and would have to be dissolved in acid.

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    $\begingroup$ The reason I didn't use science-based is that we've been trying over time to reduce its overuse. Also, I don't think this would work. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 So this is a serious weapon of war you are asking us to consider? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 5 '15 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, of course. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ Why not just shoot them? It's less messy. I suppose the local vegetation will grow better afterwards. Oh no - it's apparently drenched in acid. My methods at least attempt to be environmentally friendly. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 5 '15 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ It's kind of boring, though. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 5 '15 at 18:08
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I think the fastest way to reduce a human to a liquidy mess would be to pop them like a balloon.

A gun firing a high-pressure hose containing any flowing liquid would do it, but perhaps the liquid of choice would be the Fluoroantimonic acid mentioned in another answer - dissolve the insides of your enemy in the few seconds they are expanding.

Just remember to wear protective clothing - it's gonna be messy.

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  • $\begingroup$ How about buckshot pellets that explode and are filled with superacid? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 6 '15 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ Enough buckshot would luqify someone, no superacid required. Have you SEEN the damage that a shotgun can do? $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Mar 28 '17 at 14:23
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Lasers

It is simple. You carry around huge lasers. Sure, it will first turn them to ash, but then you melt* the ash, and know you enemy is liquified.


*For some reason, I couldnn't find what its melting point was.

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  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't help for collecting DNA. $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 6 '15 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann That requirement was added after I posted my answer. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 6 '15 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann He's right; it's absolutely fine. I added that merely for some interesting backstory. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 6 '15 at 20:35
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Give aging prop-comic Gallagher a call and he can bring you a...SLEDGE-O-MATIC

Ok, he's gonna have to call the factory for an oversized, mech-mounted one, but one shot from huge hammer should pretty much liquify anything it hits on it's way to the ground. Bones will get shattered into bits and everything else is pulped. no chemicals or heat to destroy genetic material.

If it's big enough to require a mech, it's not technically handheld, but it would be in the hands of a mech...so I could make a (feeble) argument for it's validity

In all honesty, mechanical means of rendering a human down to liquid are going to be faster than chemical methods

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