By Tylor Ellard, systems engineer
When iDemand engineers aren’t busy designing battery systems capable of taking sustainable energy producers off the utility grid for financial and environmental reasons, they’re researching other ways to improve life on this planet.
For instance, defeating the harmful and damaging effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is defined as a burst of electromagnetic energy. The worst of them result from nuclear explosions, but they’re also caused by solar flares and can create interference with all manner of electronics, from susceptible devices to power grids.
The behavior of electronics during and after an EMP has been the subject of widespread study and research. Both President Trump’s administration and that of President Obama have directed open-ended funding to study the effect on our nation’s defense capabilities and survivability, along with preventing potential disruptions of power grids.
In many ways, discovery of the EMP changed how modern national defense is planned, particularly in view of rogue nations, such as North Korea, that have the ingredients, the know-how, and possibly the desire to launch an EMP attack.
To explain in greater depth what an EMP does, we start by looking at a single electron. When exposed to an electric field the electron will react, as does the entire magnetic field, but the strengths and directions therein will vary. If the electric field is quite large, a pulse of much larger amplitude results, and the electron behaves erratically. Everything from its spin to its travel path will be affected.
A good example of this is the Starfish Prime, a high-altitude nuclear test bomb launched by the U.S. over the Pacific on July 9, 1962. The explosion knocked out electrical components some 900 miles away in Hawaii, damaging civilian and defense equipment. It also damaged or destroyed five U.S. satellites and one Soviet satellite.
The categories for describing an EMP are E1, E2 and E3 respectively. E1 is the category of electrical explosion that involves a sudden burst – the traditional view of the EMP. E2, which falls under the same classification as lightning, is easier to protect against than E1. E3 is harder to protect against because it requires a much more robust mechanism or system that tends to fluctuate in intensity. Think of it as an electrical tsunami.
Protecting against the type-three EMP is more difficult because the surges can reoccur like an echo chamber and can knock out lines of power or communications that had previously survived a short wave or burst.
Question: What’s in it for iDES3?
Answer: While the federal government is devoting time and funding to develop a military defense-grade application to stop the threat of EMP, technology originally produced for the military often has civilian applications. The Jeep is a classic example. After all, it was the first SUV.
But in exploring the possibility of adding anti-EMP technology to its product offerings, iDES3’s engineers foresee it as a valuable asset in areas where repairing a utility is extremely expensive or difficult to get to.
And that’s just one of their ideas.