A high-powered electromagnetic launch system. Basically a linear, single turn electric motor. Two parallel rails carry a HighCurrent? pulse (1 MA+ for a few ms), with a small armature between them. The resulting LorentzForce? is enough to propel the armature / slug at upwards of 4 km/s.

       Current ->
 + --------------------------
 Power!              | --->>>> Force!!!  = i L x B
 - --------------------------
       <- Current

Typically powered by large CapacitorBank?s, HomopolarGenerator?s, or CompensatedPulsedAlternator?s. Launcher performance is primarily limited by the power supply.

The advantage is that such a system would be relatively simple to make and the exit velocity doesn't depend on the length, making it ideal if you're short on space. The primary disadvantage then is that you can only fire it once before it melts down. A MassDriver? system would probably be more powerful since you have a virtually no resistive forces (this is especially true in a vacuum). Plus exit velocity is proportional to the length of the MassDriver? so you can potentially increase the power of the weapon indefinitely as long as you keep making it longer. MassDrivers? tend to be a lot more complicated and expensive to make, though.

AlexUtter really really wants to build one, but hasn't found the time or materials and would welcome any assistance. Has thought of forming a RailGunClub.

ProfessorEckert suggested in the first section of Physics24A? (in Spring 2008) that the Physics24A? students build a rail gun.

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Last edited January 23, 2008 22:34 (diff)