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Why Build Electromagnetic Superguns?

There are two main reasons that researchers are trying to build better electromagnetic guns: hypervelocity impact and space launch. Many of us believe that electromagnetic guns could do both of these things cheaper, faster, and better.

Hypervelocity

The goal of most electromagnetic gun researchers is to fire projectiles at hypervelocities. This means speeds that are even faster than supersonic, meaning much faster than the speed of sound in the air. Depending upon the altitude, supersonic velocity is, to a first approximation, anything over about a third of a km per second (1,200 km per hour or a bit over 700 miles per hour).

Hypervelocity impact is defined as a collision between a projectile and target that generates pressures way beyond the strength of both the projectile and target. That's a fancy way of saying the penetrator and target both turn into liquids or gasses where they strike each other. This is at approximately ten times the speed of supersonic flight or more, over 2 km per second (approximately 7,200 km per hour or 4,300 miles per hour). In such cases, the damage is caused almost entirely by shock waves in the target. By contrast, at the velocities of even the most powerful howitzer shells, which is less than 1.5 km/s (5,400 km/hr or 3,240 miler per hour), the shock phase quickly decays and has only a minor effect on the target.

Now here is the big deal about hypervelocity, why it is so hard to achieve. Supersonic airplanes fly way slower than hypervelocity, yet even so they are way more expensive and hazardous than those that fly slower than the speed of sound (subsonic). That's why there no longer are any supersonic commercial passenger planes. So then it's not surprising that hypervelocity guns are way more difficult and expensive that guns that fire projectiles that are merely supersonic. More on hypervelocity weapons --->>

More --->>


“Hypervelocity Then and Now,” by Harry Fair, International Journal of Impact Engineering, Vol. 5 (Pergamon Press, 1987) pg. 1.

 

 

 
       © 2013 Carolyn Meinel