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How to avoid electronic equipments getting destroyed from 'Nuclear EMP'?

  1. Dec 11, 2011 #1
    I think this is a super interesting question. I want to know if there is any way that we can protect our important electronic equipments from EMPs? If yes, how? Is the research still in progress and have we achieved any break through s in this area? I only know that it's very costly procedures and gears. What's your answer and thinking about this?

    Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2

    etudiant

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    There is no meaningful effort anywhere to protect commercial systems and infrastructure from EMP, whether induced by a large solar flare or other event such as a nuclear explosion.
    Afaik, the only reliable solution is to isolate the entire system to be shielded inside a Faraday cage, which is impractical for most larger installations or transmission lines. Combat vehicles, including tanks, aircraft and ships, are well shielded, but their support infrastructure is not, so they would be similarly at risk.
    Miniaturization in electronics increases vulnerability, but also possibly allows packaging the system in a protective shell. This is not commercial practice however.
    My guess is that if the US were to rerun the 1962 Starfish Prime megaton class nuclear test in space in the same location today, we would immobilize Hawaii, rather than merely setting off some burglar alarms as we did then.
     
  4. Dec 12, 2011 #3
    Sattelites should have a certain amount of hardening by default. Beyond that I think military grade should, since most of it was intended to be used in the nuked out battlefields of a Cold War turned hot.
     
  5. Dec 12, 2011 #4
    EMP hardening is about shielded areas and protective components (which can sink a certain amount of EMP energy) where wires crosses a shield boundary. Both part has wide component palette, so if somebody wants to design a nuke- or lightningproof device, then it's possible. (Mostly it's the same, regarding EMP only.)

    The cost depends on the level of hardening.

    Some modern communication devices has quite good protection - modern communication runs on glass, not wires: and the nodes are well protected, just because they are costly.

    Of course the secondary devices would be all toast, so it's not a big help in case of a nuclear war...
     
  6. Dec 12, 2011 #5
    By saying "modern communication runs on glass, not wires: and the nodes are well protected" are you referring to Fiber Optics, or is there any other technology?

    I want to know:
    1.What happens if EMP waves travel towards the earth and there is a piece of silicon metal(used in semiconductors), of any size, lying on the ground, will it start conducting electricity?
    2. What happens to the people who underwent leg surgery and had iron rod implanted in their legs, will that rod inside the human body conduct electricity?
    3. Can a person sitting in a wheel chair get electrocuted in case when an EMP wave is in that particular area/land/atmosphere?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
  7. Dec 13, 2011 #6
    Fiber optics, yes. One of the advantages of fiber optics is that it can cross shieldings, noisy environments or insane voltage differences without any risk or degradation of signal.

    During my work I have to design for only much less violent and strong EMP sources, so please consider that what's coming is just my gut feeling and assumption:

    1. I don't think that it'll conduct electricity. Without antennas to pick up and strengthen the noise the immediate effect of the EMP wouldn't be strong enough for anything like that.
    2. Metallic implants always conducts electricity - ??
    3. The most I expect is some inconveniences, if the person is in the zone where the EMP is more important than the direct effects of the nuke.


    IMO EMP is more part of Electrical than Nuclear Engineering.
     
  8. Dec 13, 2011 #7

    etudiant

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    EMP effects are driven in part by the rise time of the pulse, as that determines the distance over which a voltage differential and an induced current will appear. So the EMP effects from solar flares are unnoticed in normal life, but are potentially hugely destructive over long distances, for instances power lines or in earlier days telegraph wires. Nuclear blast pulses unfortunately have very short rise times, in the nanosecond range, so the EMP effects will be manifest even in much smaller items. EM radiation travels at about a foot a nanosecond, so while wheel chairs and implants are probably OK, household wiring surely is not.
     
  9. Dec 13, 2011 #8

    nsaspook

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  10. Dec 13, 2011 #9

    mheslep

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    For the average non-battlefield civilian, under what possible scenario could an EMP alone become a plausible concern?
     
  11. Dec 14, 2011 #10
    Every nuclear weapon caused EMP would be a concern. Most electronics connected to wires (of power or of communication) or antennas is not lightning protected, so they would go off with good chance. The backbone of communication would remain operational, but most people would not be able to access it.
    The main power grid would also go offline for some hours, possibly for days: it would survive without heavy damages, but to restart it after such stop is a difficult task.
     
  12. Dec 14, 2011 #11

    mheslep

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    This is not the case. There were roughly 1000 surface or low altitude atmospheric tests before the ban, and visibly there was no widespread EMP damage to civilian infrastructure far away from the test area. A hostile surface or low altitude detonation of a kiloton range weapon actually in a developed area would largely destroy the infrastructure that would otherwise be impacted by the EMP. In the case of a high altitude detonation, if the US high altitude test is any guide, then a megaton range, i.e. thermonuclear or fusion, weapon is required to cause significant EMP impact. No nation outside of the primary NPT signers (US, Russia, UK, France, China, etc) has access to any such weapon, or much hope of creating one in the near future.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  13. Dec 14, 2011 #12

    LURCH

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    E-bomb. There are devices designed to generate EMPs without any nuke.
     
  14. Dec 14, 2011 #13

    mheslep

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    Of what range? An E-Bomb would be a concern beyond, say, an Oklahoma sized truck bomb? That is, why should the least bit of effort but put into hardening electronics beyond the usual lightning and other random power surges, when a shoe bomber could do more damage the the E-Bomb?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  15. Dec 15, 2011 #14
    So your question was more about the range?

    For surface and low altitude tests they had to use extremely hardened scientific equipment even outside the primary area of destruction. I don't know the exact range. Some sources suggests a 30-100 km radius, depending on the altitude and weapon type.

    For high altitude detonations: please consider that Starfish Prime was ~1500 kilometers away from Hawaii, and the detonation point was outside the atmosphere. Lower altitude would cause stronger (but more localised) effect even with a weaker warhead.
     
  16. Dec 15, 2011 #15

    mheslep

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    My question:
    "For the average non-battlefield civilian, under what possible scenario could an EMP alone become a plausible concern?"

    Yes I would expect sensitive scientific equipment to require such protection. The issue at hand is would the average clock radio or smart phone be destroyed some 50km away from a Hiroshima sized detonation (~10 kt).

    Yes, and SP at 1.4 MT was 500X more powerful than a weapon likely to be produced by any rogue nation, especially one small and light enough to lifted to high altitude by a rogue nation missile.
     
  17. Dec 15, 2011 #16

    etudiant

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    I fear that our existing nuclear test experience may lead to optimistic conclusions in this case.
    Atmospheric nuclear testing ended in 1962, before the mass production of integrated circuits or the broad shift of the electrical industry to solid state current handling devices. Solid state components are very vulnerable to EMP, whereas tube electronics can shrug off almost anything short of melting the chassis. So we have added a new vulnerability that we did not have in the 50s and early 60s.
     
  18. Dec 16, 2011 #17
    I was thinking about the same issue, "We have added a new vulnerability that we did not have in the 50s and early 60s". And I think it's the work of the nuclear scientists to come up with a solution that prevents breaking-down of electronic equipments made of solid state devices. Because I think electrical engineers can only create new electronic devices and analyze things like what happens when there's an EMP and such. And make things like Faraday cage which I think is useless. If we want solid solution to this problem nuclear engineers are the people to turn to. What you guys think?
     
  19. Dec 31, 2011 #18
    I think you underestimate the scope of electrical engineering. Electromagnetics is vast. If you were to say that a physicist or even engineering physicist would be the most likely to come up with a solution, fine. But a nuclear engineer, over an EE that specializes is electromagnetics? Why?
     
  20. Jan 1, 2012 #19
    ^ Saw the reference to nuclear SCIENTISTS, rather than engineers. My bad. Still, research EEs specializing in EM can handle it. Just give the mandate.
     
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