There are two types of EMP delivery, point source and focused beam
There are at least three sources of electromagetic pulse and two of them are man made
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP); is a force that we learned to reckon with quite by accident in the early days of atomic testing on Christmas Island and Eniwetok. The discovery was made when H-bombs were detonated and put out street lights several hundred miles away in Hawaii and affected radio stations in Australia in the early 1050s. It can also come from the sun during a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) event. This we discovered in 1968 when there was a massive power failure in the northeast of the US and Canada and a ruptured pipeline in the north-west that was ultimately tied to the sun during the sunspot maximum of that year. At that time, most people were not even aware of CME events, but with the world dependent on communications technology, we now sweat whenever we here of a CME coming our way from the sun to the earth. A lot was learned from these various events. Initially, we thought that it could only be done with H-bombs, but by understanding the Compton Effect, first described in 1920, and causing a nearly instantaneous burst of intense electromagnetic radiation, we learned how to do it with conventional explosives and surges generated by the suitable electrical equipment. By now, we can create it using conventional explosives, or high powered electrical discharges in a powerful electrical surge over a period of nanoseconds. We have also learned how to concentrate this energy burst in a highly concentrated and directional manner. With this, we can now pinpoint a specific target instead of taking everything out whether we wanted to or not in a radial pattern from the point of emission. Now the emission can be targeted like a laser beam.
EMP works somewhat like induction where a pulse of current is captured by a closed circuit. Only, in this case, it is analogous to overloading and blowing an amplifier, only in an electrical circuit or more specifically, electronic devices. The sudden pulse of current overwhelms the device and literally melts the circuitry rendering it useless. In the case of computers, cell phones and other such devices, where everything is designed for small amounts of electromagnetic energy, a sudden surge measuring in the tens of thousands of volts and amperes is enough to melt the entire device and even start fires that will bring down the rest of the infrastructure that is non-electrical. EMP bombs mounted on cruise missiles were used in Desert Storm in 1991 to “soften” the principle target, Baghdad, in Iraq.
Just as we can focus electromagnetic radiation in a laser and focus sound beams in an LPAD crowd control device, there is no doubt that an electromagnetic pulse can be similarly focused in a narrow and coherent beam against small targets like an incoming missile and jet assaults. This is done using a parabolic reflector so that nothing is harmed except in the direct path of the beam. Having a beamed device of this sort means that there are little in the way of transmission losses as the beam is “coherent” instead of spreading out. In a beam of this type, there is no square of the distance falling off of the energy, so the beam is effective a thousand miles away as it is locally for a region within eyesight. With a beam, specific targets can be selected, while the rest is left unharmed.
EMP generators can produce pulses of electromagnetic energy that can destroy the sensitive electronics in computers, microprocessors, and electronic controls. Destabilized EMP circuits can produce multi=megawatt pulses by using an explosive wire disruptive switch. These high power pulses can be coupled to antennas, conic sections, horns, parabolic reflectors, etc for very directional effects. The fact that antennas can be used suggest that EMP can be tuned to specific frequencies for specific targets while leaving unharmed anything that is off frequency and nonresonant. Research is currently being undertaken to disable vehicles at a distance with the police or military using beamed EMP devices, thus avoiding dangerous high-speed chases. The trick is to generate a high enough power pulse to fry the electronic control processors and rendering the rest of the vehicle inoperative. This is a lot simpler if the vehicle is covered in plastic or fiberglass rather than metal. As newer vehicles are made of composite materials, this renders them more susceptible than older ones that use sheet steel or aluminum. The shielding of the metal body offers a challenge to the researcher to develop a practical system. This shielding is also known as a Faraday cage that absorbs such pulses and deflects them from the sensitive electronics inside. However, for a Faraday cage to be completely defective, it needs to be grounded, which is not always possible, especially for an aircraft that must have other means of dissipating the energy harmlessly or channelling it around the vehicle envelope, A system could be built that would penetrate metal but this is costly, cumbersome and produces collateral damage to friendly targets. In such cases, it might be better to first penetrate the envelope with a high-intensity laser followed by an EMP burst in the same path.
- Scyllac Type 1.3 Microfarad 100,000 Volt Energy Storage Capacitor: This is the holy grail of high energy fast discharge capacitors. These large units are the dream components of many high voltage, high energy experimenters. The capacitor is rated 1.3 mfd at 100,000 volts at a 60,000 amp discharge capability. Ultra low inductance is excellent for shock pulses, wire exploding, EMP generation, neutron generation, etc.. These capacitors are used but are guaranteed to output between 80 and 90% of their original ratings. Units measure 14”L x 11”W x 25”H and weigh 220 pounds with ground ring terminations.
- Antenna, Cone or Parabolic reflector: This is mounted on the business end of the device and it collects most of the pulse from the point source that is radiated outward in all directions. The parabolic design is set with the emitter at the focus deep in the reflector. This way most of the beams bounce off the reflector and are directed out from it in a parallel manner. What “leakage” there is coming from the emitter and is not reflected will be insufficient at distance to cause damage away from the beam. Proper design will reduce this to near zero, even at close range.
- Switch, either triggered or remote-controlled: For the handheld unit, the trigger is a basic switch that closes the circuit and initiates the rapid discharge of the capacitor that dumps all of its stored energy into the circuit at the same time and thus creates the EMP capable of destroying other circuits at a distance via induction. The remote controlled switch is triggered from a ground or satellite signal and does the same thing. This is useful for “more than a single use” device that can be brought back for a recharge and deployed again. For the single-use bomb, the switch triggers an explosive that acts on a heavy duty coil to create the EMP surge.
- The circuit: consists of heavy duty copper cable capable of handling the kind of electrical surge over a period of a few nanoseconds without melting. It incorporates the capacitor and the switch.
- The charger or charge connection: The purpose of the charger is to store vast amounts of potential electrical energy into the capacitor bank where it remains until the circuit switch is closed. The Charger is usually not in the remote controlled EMP device, but on ground models, there may be a semi-permanent connection between the charger and the capacitor bank of the device.
- Sighting scope or laser pointer: For a beamed defensive weapon, the scope is essential and must be lined with the beam of the weapon when fired. As EMP propagates at the velocity of light, sighting the target accurately at the moment of discharge is all that is required to effect almost instantaneous results. An alternative is to couple a laser pointer that is aligned with the weapon beam.
- Superstructure: This is the frame that holds all the pieces together as a working whole. The superstructure could be a flying drone or a rifle like configuration. It could even be a satellite that is charged by solar panels and ready to fire at a moments notice.
A report on nuclear generated EMP
EMP bombs started popping up in headlines only recently (1991), but the concept of EMP weaponry has been around for a long time, virtually from the moment of discovery. From the 1960s through to the 1980s, the United States was most concerned with the possibility of a nuclear-based EMP attack from a low earth orbit position. This idea dates back to nuclear weapons research from the 1950s. In 1958, American tests of hydrogen bombs yielded some surprising results.
Researchers concluded that the electrical disturbance was due to the Compton effect, theorized by physicist Arthur Compton in 1925. Compton's assertion was that photons of electromagnetic energy could knock loose electrons from atoms with low atomic numbers (based on Einstein’s earlier work on the photoelectric effect). In a 1958 test, researchers concluded, the photons from the blast's intense gamma radiation knocked a large number of electrons free from oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere. This flood of electrons interacted with the Earth's magnetic field to create a violently fluctuating electric current, which induced a powerful magnetic field. We have since learned that a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) can have the exact same effect, only directly on the geomagnetosphere by causing it to fluctuate and vibrate violently and thus generating induction in any long conductor. The resulting electromagnetic pulse induces intense electrical currents in all conductive materials over a wide area such as pipelines, railway tracks, power lines and any other continuous structure including metal fencing around large ranch holdings. The effect can be so intense as to cause not only blackouts but the bursting of pipelines, fracturing of rails and arcing from long fences that start wildfires.
During the cold war with the former USSR, the U.S. intelligence service feared the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear missile and detonate it some 50 kilometers (30 miles) above the US to achieve the same effect on a larger scale. They feared that the resulting electromagnetic burst would knock out electrical equipment across the United States. This was to be proven as fact in 1991 in Iraq where the first wartime use of EMP was deployed.
Such an atomic attack is a possibility, even from a terrorist who has the means that employs little more than 1940s technology, but this is no longer the United States' main concern. Today, U.S. intelligence is giving nonnuclear EMP devices, such as EMP bombs, much more attention as these are even more easily fabricated even from spare parts and war surplus items. These weapons wouldn't affect as wide an area because they wouldn't blast photons so high above the Earth. But they could be used to create total blackouts on a more local level such as in Baghdad in 1991.
William J. Prest (author) from Vancouver, Canada on August 08, 2014:
Some drones are now equipped with a beamed EMP device. I recommend a well built and grounded Faraday Cage.
William J. Prest (author) from Vancouver, Canada on June 12, 2013:
Consider the recent revelation of massive surveillance and spying by the NSA. Add to this the drones planned for every region of N. America. Most of these drones will not be hardened. Having one of these would help in preventing the problems associated with drones by way of spying and bombing.
1234 on June 11, 2013:
We will need these when skynet takes over.
William J. Prest (author) from Vancouver, Canada on March 27, 2012:
From what I heard, that was due to fracking nearby. EMP weapons of the air burst time would only create a single boom when they explode and after that, anyone in range of the radiation would be in the stone age.
Wattsup4us on March 27, 2012:
I may be way off base but is this the type of tech. that could have created the commotion in Clintonville,WI. for 3 days with the booming sounds and ground tremmors? Some kind of test on a small 4600 pop. rural town. No one seems to have a professional reason yet.
LAURENS WRIGHT on March 16, 2012:
WOW! This hub is fantastic, well written and very well researched. Again, this is a fantasic hub. Being that the US is about to get into the Israel-Iran conflict, the stakes are raised with this type of technology.
William J. Prest (author) from Vancouver, Canada on September 16, 2010:
That's a foregone conclusion from what is stated. The idea is to disable tanks and jets that are not hardened. As jets are made of composite materials, they are far more vulnerable than tanks. Jeeps and trucks would be vulnerable.
The concept of modern war appears to be to advance technology step by step, with the newer destroying the older. Modern warfare has always been about superior technology combined with brilliant strategic moves and tactics. The latest technology surpasses even this and is not yet fully disclosed.
Daniel J. Neumann from Harrisburg, Pa on September 16, 2010:
Very interesting. A technology to destroy technology. Quite ironic, no?
I can't wait to read about the first anti-vehicle, EMP landmines.