The idea of bloodless wars on the battlefield of the future has been the subject of much debate among war strategists for a long time.
Lasers developed to guide bombs can themselves now be used as weapons
But the massive media attention focused on the civilian casualties during the recent war on Iraq has again raised the question of how viable use of so-called non-lethal weapons may be.
Research into the potential use of weaponry such as directed energy, ray guns and e-bombs - electronic pulse weapons that destroy electronics - has intensified in recent years, nowhere more so than in the US, the leading coalition partner in the Iraq war.
"There is a misconception that war is about killing," said Dr John Alexander, formerly in the US Army with Special Operations and now a leading advocate for the development of non-lethal weapons.
"War is about imposition of will. Non-lethal weapons fit in the spectrum of this," he told the BBC World Service's Agenda programme.