Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Less Sci-Fi Based Weapon of the Future

The last time I made a blog post I talked about how the laser should be the weapon of the future. It is not wasting a projectile or using dangerous chemicals (gunpoweder) to propell it, but is just energy. I still stand by what I said, however, it is not yet completely within our grasp to be able to not fire a projectile at the enemy. That is why I want to tweek what I said last week by adding that the laser is the weapon of the distant future. A weapon that I am seeing as being part of the near future is the Electromagnetic Railgun.
The railgun is futuristic because it does not use chemicals as its propellant, but instead uses electricity. The reason it is just futuristic enough to be in the near future (in my opinion) is that it still fires a projectile. According to Popular Science, the U.S Navy recently put a prototype of a 32 megajoule railgun through some tests and it completed the tests surprisingly well. The Navy's futuristic weapon is capable of firing a large metal projectile at speeds of 5,600 mph and someday its makers think that when attatched to battleships it will be able to fire the projectile 50 to 100 nautical miles. Where does this energy come from? Well its in the name, 32 MEGAJOULES IS A LOT OF ENERGY. To put it in perspective, 1 megajoule is equivalent to a 1,000 pound car thrust at 100 mph. Multiply that by 32 and you have got a stupid amount of energy!!!
One of the railguns being tested
How do these work? Two long, conductive rods are laid down parallel to eachother. An armature, or a solid piece of conductive metal bridges the gap between the two rods. A current is run through the positive rod and the current goes up the rod, across the armature, down the negative rod and back into the power source. A magnetic field forms around each rod, around the positive rod it spins counter clockwise and around the negative rod it spins clockwise. A projectile which is laid inbetween the two rods experiances a force called the Lorentz force which runs perpendicular to the magnetic field and in the direction of the armature.
http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/railgun-7.gifThe railgun is powerful but it requires a lot of energy to shoot a projectile.

Above are two videos displaying the power of the prototype railgun. Clearly, this weapon has a lot of potential if it is firing chunks of metal that big, that fast, without dangerous chemicals. My question is will this weapon pass all of its tests and eventually be implemented on to the battleships and maybe even planes of the U.S Navy and Airforce? Or should the Defense branaches of the U.S Army stick with the dangerous chemically powered weapons that have brought our so far?

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