Sandia's magnetic gun

Discussion in 'Physics' started by Porfiry, Mar 6, 2001.

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  1. Porfiry Nomad Staff Member

    A magnetic field that accelerates pellets faster than anything except a nuclear explosion has been developed experimentally at the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories. The machine that generates the field has been jokingly dubbed “the fastest gun in the West,” but the description is an understatement.

    “It’s the fastest gun in the world,” says Sandia physicist Marcus Knudson, lead scientist on the project. The propulsion speed of 20 km/sec — almost three times that necessary to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth (about 7 km/sec) — would send material from New York to Boston in half a minute, and from Albuquerque to Santa Fe in a few seconds. A rifle bullet is typically propelled at 1 km/sec.

    The machine, Sandia’s Z accelerator, currently propels dime-sized pellets called flyer plates only a few hundred millimeters to gain information on the effect of high-velocity impacts. The data gained can be used to simulate the effect of flying space junk impacting the metal skin of an orbiting observatory traveling in the opposite direction. The data is expected to aid materials scientists trying to balance lightness against strength for satellite and observatory shells.

    The technique also has potential as a hypervelocity “kinetic kill” weapon that, emanating from a lighter, more mobile source than the huge Z machine, still could strike disabling blows through an adversary’s heavy armor. These more mobile sources are already in development. Perhaps most importantly, though least dramatically, the technique is the fastest, most accurate, and cheapest method to determine how materials will react under high pressures and temperatures. These characteristics can then be expressed in formulas called “equations of state” — equations that tell researchers precisely how materials will react if basic conditions like pressure and temperature are changed by specific amounts.

    While not a favorite topic for most people, accurate knowledge of equations of state is essential for the U.S. to maintain its nuclear weapons without physically testing them. The maintenance program, called “science-based stockpile stewardship,” uses the most powerful computers in the world to predict the result of unimaginably high temperatures and pressures upon materials. Accurate predictions depend on accurate input about the characteristics of those materials — that is, by a full knowledge of their equations of state.

    Researchers currently are unable to determine these material characteristics except by the less accurate, more expensive methods of impacting test materials with laser beams, or at lower energies with projectiles from gas-powered guns.

    The propulsion technique works by applying the Z machine’s 20 million amps to produce an evolving magnetic field that expands in approximately 200 nanoseconds to reach several million atmospheres pressure. The relatively gentle acceleration produced by the field is similar to that which might be experienced in a smoothly rising high-speed elevator, rather than from the shock imparted by a firearm.

    Accelerated to 13 km/sec, the plates are neither distorted, melted, nor vaporized, as they would be if shot from a gun. When the plate is accelerated to a speed about 20 times faster than a bullet, or 20 km/sec, the more forceful acceleration needed to reach higher velocity causes temperatures of 2,500 K to occur in the flyer plate; this liquefies aluminum flyer plates.

    Better understanding of launch configurations is expected to eliminate this problem, though liquidation still is superior to the worst alternative of vaporization — the result if conventional acceleration could be used to reach these speeds. (No power can be delivered from a vaporized pellet.) Characteristics of copper and titanium plates are also being investigated.

    The plates are accelerated in the vacuum chamber at the core of Sandia’s Z machine, the most powerful producer of electrical discharge on Earth. Sandia scientists last year used Z’s enormous magnetic field to test materials by compressing them — a method called isentropic compression.

    In this even newer technique, staggering the firing of Z’s 36 lines eliminates the shock that melts the flyers at the higher velocities. The resultant expansion of the powerful magnetic field is used to propel small objects somewhat the way a surf boarder is propelled who catches one of a succession of enormous waves.

    A paper accepted by the Journal of Impact Engineering describes techniques that accelerated the plates to 13 km/sec.

    A paper to be submitted this spring to the Journal of Applied Physics shows how improving the configuration of the loads increased the speed of the flyer plates to 20 km/sec.

    The work is funded primarily by DOE.
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  3. Travel Speed

    Could this be modified in the future as a cheaper and more enviromentally safe method of achieving escape-velocity for a spacecraft?
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  5. I have always marveled at the power of magnetic energy. Would it be possible to harness this energy for space travel?
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  7. PaulJ_85 Registered Member

    Yes, this is also something that interests me.

    Yes, if this could be used in the future for some sort of propulsion device for Space travel it would make tasks such as flying to Mars, quicker and cheaper.

    at 20/km a sec, that is 72000 km per hour, and as someone said before to escape the earths gravitational pull they need 7/km per sec approx 24000 km per hour.

    Now a large amount of fuel is used in the task of getting the object from our atmosphere and into space. If a propulsion thing could get it into space without needing to use as much fuel it could then perhaps have more thrust in space.

    However as the test is only with small pellets at the moment we don't know how it would be on a larger scale. and of course if a human body is thrusted from 0 to 72000 kmh in a nano second its going to get messy as the Gforce would be extreme!

    however, any new developments in propulsion is a good development.


    Paul J
  8. Excuse me if I'm mistaken, but how is this any different than a rail gun? Rail guns use electromagnetic energy to propel objects near light-speed (in time, as the technology is perfected to match the physics of the "gun"). Two unversities have already done this along with several other private-sector projects. There are even patents regarding certain pieces of the technology, which I don't agree with (patents stunt growth), but they exist none-the-less. How is Sandia's magetic gun any different?
  9. Essentially, it isn't any different from a "rail gun" (a somewhat vague term that has been applied liberally to a variety of weapons accelerating projectiles by non-conventional or semi-conventional means). It does, however, work. Which puts it massively ahead of most "rail guns". As for the speed of light, who needs it, for a weapon at least? You certainly couldn't use such a weapon in atmosphere, it would simply destroy it's projectiles. 20km/sec with even, say, 50 grams of material, would be quite enough energy to blow modern tanks into tiny pieces, and requiring of less energy than some dubious "speed of light" accelerator.

    As for more humane and genuinely useful options, such as using it to accelerate spacecraft, it might be doable, but the method would have to be very different. Two spring to mind. First is a tunnel/tube in the ground, which slowly (relatively speaking, still probably several Gs or more) and steadily accelerates a vehicle to either orbital velocity, or, more likely, to a speed where alot less fuel is needed to reach orbit. Problems are huge construction costs, the structure needing to be pretty large, and massive energy requirements at launch, not to mention possible issues with massively powerful magnetic fields and relatively delicate humans and equipment.

    The second is perhaps more and less practical, which is to build a similar thing in space, preferably "aim-able", and use that to accelerate vehicles one they are in orbit, or to shoot cargo around, or the like. Perhaps a good compromise would be building such a device on the moon, as has been suggested in science fiction for decades.
  10. cozmicbird Registered Member

    space travel*

    I believe, but Im not sure where, that they are making plans for the use of a magnetically propelled track to launch satellites into orbit. They are also planning for future space missions (such as to mars)to possibly be launched this way.
  11. TIME02112 Registered Senior Member

    The "Z" Machine (Updated)

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    To reveiw the remainder of this article, please visit the following

    *Sandia's Website

    Sandia's Online Photos of The "Z" Machine

    ...updated website to Sandia's Lab Research pertaining to this
    unbelievable (But Very Real!) Experimental Research Project.
    <Img Src=>
    <Img Src=>
    ---T-12 of TAP-TEN
    <Img Src=>
    TAP-TEN MAGI~SYSTEMS International Associated Networks
  12. TIME02112 Registered Senior Member

    <Img Src=>
    This embarkation to such new heights invokes the next generation of physics to come from "Outside of the Box" thinkers that will put forth new definitions to the way mankind will come closer to understanding the nature of the Quantum Universe.
    <Img Src=>
    ---T12 of TAP-TEN
  13. mike2k Registered Member

    near light speed ??
    what are you talking about??
    light speed is 300000km/s
    the fastest guns ever built hit an order of magnitude 10-100km/s and the ones that hit 100km/s use vaporized metallic plasma that weighs a fraction of a gram

    .5mv^2 starts "failing" at approx .1c
  14. mike2k Registered Member

    Re: Yes, this is also something that interests me.

    actually escape velocity is 11.2 km/s
    orbital velocity is ~8.6 km/s <= depends on actual altitude
  15. anonymous Guest

    I totally agree with evrything ths dude said, exept for this part. have you ever shot a coke can with a bb gun, and then with a 22 mag?. the pellet gun rips the can apart and nocks it down, but the 22 passes straight through not even making the can wobble. it seems to me that this gun would be usefull for killing tank engines, but i think that it would just burrow a hole straight through it and keep on going, not losing much
    velocity in any sense of the word. this is my opinion and im probably wrong
  16. Lycab Guest

    it would be a very Powerful weapon
  17. Scorp Guest

    You're right. A mysterious weapon has reportedly disabled an American tank in Iraq with what may have been a weapon similar to this. The story is at
  18. Zudukai Guest

    IT's OUT THERE!!!

    the weapon can be made and already is made using a technique similar to a "MAG LEV train to hold the round in place and the power source is a lithium ion power pak of some sort the round must be depleted uranium around the size of a standard 5.56 round.
  19. magnetic energy

    you know you can use magnetic energy as an alternate power source
  20. djdj Registered Member

  21. Near Light Speed Propulsion

    Near Light Speed Space Ship is Man's Future

    The future is about to change. The inventor, who wishes to remain anonymous says, “He has created a mankind first based on common day physics used by many.” He further states, ”The propulsion application is a first and a patent has been filed.”

    There is no information on the World Wide Web or any other source of publication on this future invention. Even my patent application and patent will not be published at my request.”

    This is what is known. Present day Oberth technology used by NASA and others can be classified as an antiquated propulsion technology which hits ~ 25k miles/hr. max (.00378 % of c, c=186,000 miles/sec) and has a very limited travel distance. Space travelers using Oberth technology would see the time needed to travel to Alpha Centauri our closest neighboring galaxy taking hundreds if not thousands of years.

    The inventor says, “Even if my propulsion hits 50 % of light speed that is ~ 330,000,000 miles/hr. there is plenty of room to learn and grow towards 99.9 % the speed of light (c=670,616,629.384 mile per hour). This would mean travel to Mars in weeks not years and travel to Alpha Centauri in 5 to 10 years. The possibility for space colonization, space mining, and space travel would be limitless. Forget about the low earth orbit joy trips now being offered by space tourism companies. Mankind could find itself doing what it does best, exploring. There will be many new Columbus and Lewis and Clarks types blazing trails discovering new worlds determining mankind’s existence”.

    The cost of such disruptive technology must be out of this world. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cost per pound for current Chemical Rocket technology is $ 2,000 to $ 10,000 dollars per launch. This generally runs into hundreds of millions of dollars per launch as verified by NASA. The launch cost per pound for components of the NLS Spaceship to Low Earth Orbit would have the same current or lower cost. The NLS components launched to LEO would used to build the spaceship. Something like the TV program Star Trek’s Enterprise.

    The NLS propulsion technology has been peer reviewed by several physicists as being valid technology following Newton’s and Einstein’s laws using invariant mass propulsion.

    Present Day Solid Rocket Exhaust is 1,000 to 4,000 m/s with 10^3 to 10^7 N thrust and a firing duration of minutes.

    The Proposed NLS Propulsion Exhaust is 300,000,000 m/s with 10^3 to 10^9 N thrust and a firing duration of years - decades.

    Estimated cost for Space Shuttle is hundreds of billions of dollars with $ 500 million per launch and $ 50 million per month to maintain the shuttle program ending around 2012.

    Estimated cost for NLS Space Ship is hundreds of millions of dollars with $ 200 million per launch and $ 2 million per month with no program termination in man’s existence.

    Forward thinking aerospace companies who are interested in the future of space travel may contact the inventor. A trade secret agreement will be required of all parties interested.

    Development by 2 American aerospace companies is underway.

    the inventor
    NLS Propulsion
  22. Communist Hamster Cricetulus griseus leninus Valued Senior Member

    Huh? Guest posters? Glitch in the database?
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