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For the game I'm developing, I'm currently adding weapons.
I have been thinking about a hybrid weapon that could Switch its mode in combat, pending the situation.
It would basically be an energy-based weapon which would be able to be used either in PULSE mode or BEAM mode.
I'm thinking the BEAM mode would create a laser-type continuous beam, which would be able to "slice" through armour. In PULSE mode, said weapon would instead fire some concentrated pulse/bolts with a certain interval.

My main question is: Is such a weapon a theoretical possibility or would it be impossible to alter a single weapon mechanism in such an extreme way?

Secondly, what kind of particles, from our current scientific knowledge, would make sense for such a weapon? Would it offer more advantages to weaponize mass-light or mass-heavy (relatively to each other) particles?

Note: I don't want to talk about "but missiles or xyz is better".

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't PULSE mode simply be a very short BEAM mode? The same way some modern assault rifles can toggle their "auto" modes, I imagine that the default setting of your weapon would be PULSE mode, and that a click of a button would allow a BEAM mode as long as the trigger were held down. $\endgroup$ – Xenocacia Apr 20 '17 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ For sci-fi inspiration I recommend watching the Anime "Psycho Pass" (one of the best Animes I have seen). They have a weapon called the Dominator, which has three different modes. Though they don't go into detail about how this weapon could be created. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Apr 20 '17 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ "Secondly, what kind of particles, from our current scientific knowledge, would make sense for such a weapon?" I find this confusing. The only kind of particle that appears in an energy beam would be photons, and there's a serious argument that they aren't a particle. Do you want an energy beam (like a laser)? Or a particle beam? What powers them? $\endgroup$ – Brythan Apr 20 '17 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ For one thing, I'm pretty sure there are no continuous operation charged particle accelerators. Bunches (an actual scientific term) may come separated by mere 25ns, but that's still pulsed. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Apr 20 '17 at 14:29
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Pulse has no advantage over beam in energy delivered

If you have some sort of beam weapon, like a laser, maser, or proton-beam, then beam will always do more damage than pulsed, as long as the same energy is delivered per unit time of it being 'on'. Since it is the same type of weapon, there won't be any special effects to be gained by pulsing the weapon

Pulse a weapon due to limited power supply, or for cooling

An energy weapon in space will take a lot of energy. If you don't have the energy from your reactors to fire it continuously, then this is a good reason to pulse it. Charge it up using some sort of capacitors, and discharge when the capacitor is full.

Also under-appreciated is that cooling is a big problem in space. High energy reactors, engines, and weapons will generate a lot of waste heat, and you can only radiate that off into space so fast. Your big energy weapon might only be able to fire intermittently or else it will overheat. In this case, you can fire for a certain amount of time, then you will have to wait a certain amount of time to allow the heat to dissipate before firing again.

Most beam type weapons could be pulsed in the same device

There are a lot of different type of beam weapons, and even a lot of different types of lasers. Also, the kind of beam weapons that we use in space combat might not look much like the MW power stuff we have today.

That being said, lasers fundamentally work by adding energy to excite some medium, then lining up the released photons into a beam. As a general rule, it only takes microseconds from application of energy to getting beam out, so there isn't much engineering reason why you can't pulse a laser at some frequency if you are limited by power or cooling.

There are also a lot of different types of particle accelerators, which you might use to make a weapon like a proton-beam (which would be a sort of ion cannon, I suppose). Since there are so many types, I am at risk of talking about things I don't know about. However, for the types of particle accelerators that they use to generate neutrons, the beam itself is pulsed, but pulsed at such a high frequency it might as well be a beam. The pulse rate in in milliseconds. So again, there is no engineering reason you can't pulse a particle beam for a second, then turn it off to recharge capacitors or cool down before firing again.

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  • $\begingroup$ Energy is one thing. Power is another. And energy density along with power density are yet something else. High energy won't do anything if it takes too long to deliver or is spread too much. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Apr 20 '17 at 14:25

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