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The Air Force’s new thermite torch liquifies metal locks in seconds

Sorry bad guys, terrorists, and other enemies of the state: your metal barriers and locks are no match for American ingenuity. A collaborative effort between the U.S. Air Force and defense contractor Energetic Materials and Products has resulted in a new tool that can cut through metal in a matter of seconds.

They’re calling it the TEC Torch, but its name doesn’t do it justice. The torch shoots out a mix of vaporized metal and particulate matter at temperatures exceeding 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is twice the temperature required to melt steel, and sufficient to melt just about any other metal for that matter either.

The idea for the TEC Torch was born out of need by military personnel for a quick way to bust locks and metal barriers out in the field. Obviously a quicker way than the traditional lock cutter is desirable, given the dangerous environments our men and women in uniform find themselves in.

Generating the heat necessary requires a great deal of fuel though. As such, the torch is powered by replaceable cartridges that last about two seconds each. It might be a little inconvenient for larger-scale barriers, but the Air Force and EMPI were looking for portability first. With the TEC Torch measuring in at about 12 to 14 inches long and 1.5 inches and diameter, it looks like they’ve done just that. And it’s light too; the heaviest models weigh less than a pound even with the cartridge installed.

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Despite its initial focus being on the military, EMPI has also sent about 600 units to state and local law enforcement as well. Outside of these uses, the company sees potential for use in rescue, deep water diving exploration, and salvage operations. While the current version is already in production, other versions of the torch will soon be ported for uses with miniature robots, and for miniature cutters aimed for use in the oil industry, EMPI says.