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Electromagnetic Rail Gun

Submitted by:
Khawaja Hassaan Arif

Muhammad Faheel Choudhry


Muhammad Nabeel Qamar


Supervised by:
Ma’am Isra Nazeer

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 1

Electromagnetic Rail Gun

Submitted to the faculty of the Electrical Engineering Department

of the University of Engineering and Technology Lahore
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of
Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Electrical Engineering.

____________________ ____________________

Chairman Electrical Project Coordinator


____________________ ____________________

Internal Examiner External Examiner

Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering

University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore
KSK Campus
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We declare that the work contained in this thesis is our own, except where explicitly
stated otherwise. In addition this work has not been submitted in support of any other
degree or professional qualification.

Signed: ____________________ Signed: ____________________

Dated: ____________________ Dated: ____________________

Khawaja Hassaan Arif Muhammad Faheel Choudhry

2014-EE-364 2014-EE-367

Signed: ____________________

Dated: ____________________

Muhammad Nabeel Qamar


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First and foremost, all praises and thanks to Allah (SWT), the Almighty, for His
uncountable blessings and the strength to complete this project. All best prayers and
peace be unto His best messenger, Muhammad (P.B.U.H), his pure descendant, and
his sacred family, and his noble companion.

Secondly, we would like to thank our families. Without their love and support over
the years none of this would have been possible. They have always been there for us
and we are thankful for everything they have helped us to achieve.

We offer our sincere gratitude to our supervisor, Ma’am Isra Nazeer, for her
patience, motivation and immense knowledge. First, being her students and then
working under her supervision in Final Year was a great privilege for us. We would
also like to extend our thanks to all faculty members of our department and to all
those who offer collegial guidance and assistance over the years.
Special thanks to Dr. Farooq Mukhtar, who put his faith on us and initiated this
project with great enthusiasm.

In the last, cheers to all our project discussions, for the sleepless nights we were
working together before deadlines and for all the fun we had in last four years. Also
we are grateful to all our friends and class fellows for their cooperation and help in
completing this project work.

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Dedicated to
our parents
for their unconditional love, endless support and all time
encouragement. Any thing good that has come to our lives has
been due to their examples, guidance and love.

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Table of Contents

Declaration……………………………………………………………… 3
Table of Contents………………………………………………………...6
List of Figures……………………………………………………………8
Chapter 1 Introduction…………………………………………….......10
1.1 Research Background………………………………………...11
1.2 Problem Statement………………………………………........12
1.3 Objectives……………………………………………...……...13
1.4 Motivation…………………………………….........................13
Chapter 2 Literature Review…………………………………………. 14
Chapter 3 Drive Mechanism…………………………………………...19
3.1 General Working……………………………………………... 20
3.2 Ampere’s Right Hand Grip Rule………………………………22
3.3 Fleming’s Left Hand Rule………………………………..……22
3.4 Lorentz Force…………………………………………………..23
Chapter 4 Design of Rail Guns……………………………….…………24
4.1 Theory……………………………………………………..........25
4.2 Material to be used…………………………………………...…26
4.3 Design Considerations……………………………………...…...26
4.3.1 Conducting Rails……………………………….....…27
4.3.2 Projectile……………………………………………..28
4.3.3 Power Supply…………………………………………28

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Chapter 5 Experimentation……………………………………………….31
Chapter 6 Application……………………………………………………..36
6.1 Launch and Launch assist of Spacecraft …………………………37
6.2 Weaponry…………………………………………………………37
6.3 Helical Rail Gun…………………………………………………..39
6.4 Plasma Rail Gun…………………………………………………..39
Chapter 7 Tests of Rail Gun……………………………………………….40
7.1 US Military Test……………………………………………..……41
7.2 US Navy Test………………………………………………..…… 42
7.3 Trigger for inertial confinement fusion……………………………43
7.4 Fielding Rail Gun weapons………………………………..………43
7.4.1 Rail gun durability…………………………………...…43
7.4.2 Projectile Guidance……………………………….…… 44

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Figure 2-1 Basic Design of Rail Gun

Figure 2-2 Projectile in a Rail Gun
Figure 2-3 Current Path through Projectile
Figure 2-4 Detailed Working of a Rail Gun
Figure 3-1 Lorentz Force on Projectile
Figure 3-2 Right Hand Grip Rule
Figure 3-3 Fleming Left Hand Rule
Figure 3-4 Direction of Lorentz Force
Figure 4-1 Power Supply Circuit
Figure 5-1 Capacitor Bank
Figure 5-2 Front view of Rail Gun
Figure 5-3 Upper view of Rail Gun
Figure 5-4 Final Product
Figure 6-1 Naval Weapon

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The structure is an electrically powered electromagnetic projectile launcher
which uses the energy conversion system that converts electrical energy to
mechanical energy in order to launch a projectile.
Rail guns are supposed to be used as weapons that would neither use explosives
nor propellant, will instead rely on electromagnetic forces to generate a very high
kinetic energy to the projectile.
An explosive powered military gun cannot achieve a muzzle velocity of more
than about 2 km/s but rail guns can readily exceed 3 km/s, and can provide better
ranges and destructive forces.
The absence of explosive propellants as well as the low cost of projectiles
compared to conventional weaponry come as additional advantages. A rail gun uses
a pair of parallel conductors, or rails, along which a sliding armature is
accelerated by the electromagnetic effects of a current that flows down one rail, into
the armature and then back along the other rail.

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In 1918, French inventor Louis Octave Fauchon Villeplee invented an electric

cannon which is an early form of rail gun. He filed for a US patent on 1 April 1919,
which was issued in July 1922 as patent no.1,421,435 "Electric Apparatus for
Propelling Projectiles". In his device, two parallel bus bars are connected by the
wings of a projectile, and the whole apparatus surrounded by a magnetic field.By
passing current through bus bars and projectile, a force is induced which propels the
projectile along the bus bars and into flight.

In 1944, during World War II, Joachim Hänsler of Germany's Ordnance

Office proposed the first theoretically viable rail gun. By late 1944, the theory behind
his electric antiaircraft gun had been worked out sufficiently to allow the Luftwaffe's
Flak Command to issue a specification, which demanded a muzzle velocity of 2,000
m/s (6,600 ft/s) and a projectile containing 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) of explosive. The guns
were to be mounted in batteries of six firing twelve rounds per minute, and it was to
fit existing 12.8 cm Flak 40 mounts. It was never built. When details were discovered
after the war it aroused much interest and a more
detailed study was done, culminating with a 1947 report which concluded that it was
theoretically feasible, but that each gun would need enough power to illuminate half
of Chicago.

During 1950, Sir Mark Oliphant, an Australian physicist and first director of
the Research School of Physical Sciences at the new Australian National University,
initiated the design and construction of the world's largest (500 mega joule)
homopolar generator. This machine was operational from 1962 and was later used
to power a large-scale rail gun that was used as a scientific experiment.
Late into the first decade of the 2000s, the U.S. Navy tested a rail gun that
accelerates a 3.2 kg (7 pound) projectile to hypersonic velocities of approximately
2.4 kilometres per second (8,600 km/h), about Mach 7 (seven times speed of sound).

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They gave the project the motto "Velocitas Eradico", Latin for "I, [who am/] speed,
eradicate"—or in the vernacular, "Speed Kills".

More researchers in the United States investigated the railgun. They aimed to
use the railgun as a defensive system, located in orbit and nicknamed "Star Wars".
It would be used to knock out the enemy's missiles from outer space. The U.S
government heavily funded this project and many contractors started working on
building different kinds of railguns. However, the degrees of success varied
dramatically. Proposed applications of railguns today are not limited to military uses,
but are also been considered launching satellites and for other commercial uses.
Among all applications for railguns, launching rockets into space is one of the most
exciting projects. In 2003, Ian Nab made a plan to build a system to launch 6 supplies
(such as food, water or fuel) into space. Based on cost, this method would be highly
superior to using the space shuttle; the ideal railgun system would cost only $528/kg,
compared of $20000/kg with the traditional method. The railgun system was to be
made to launch over 500 tons every year with the frequency of 2000 launches per
year. The results have yet to be seen. Proposals for using railguns as weapons include
projecting heavy non-explosive missiles at speeds up to 5000 miles per hour. The
energy outmatches that of an explosive shell.


The basic purpose of electromagnetic gun to be achieved is to design a

launching assembly that could be installed on naval ships with ease. The present
naval guns are heavy and they cost much. Moreover, fuel or explosives need to be
carried along for the missile launching. The concept of rail gun can be helpful for
generating possibilities that may reduce the weapon weight and that can completely
eradicate the need of propellants or explosives for projectile launch. To acquire such
mechanism cost too much along complexities of handling of high currents that could
be so dangerous. That’s why despite of its applications, this has not caught much
attention. Thus, it is essential to make it a cost effective and simple to handle.

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This design will undertake to create a low-cost and low weight weapon for
security and military system. That will benefits the defense in many ways by giving
them a proper weaponry system.
Our main aim is to design this weapon that may have a long life, safe and easy
to handle. There are several rail gun projects working, having main concerns
regarding safety due to presence of high heat, high voltages and currents involved.
The disadvantages of railguns are due to the high current required to launch the
projectile, a huge amount of heat is produced at the contact between the rails and the
projectile. This heat corrodes the electrical contact surface of the projectile, and also
increases friction by making the surface rough, which reduce the efficiency


Today, the argument for a naval electromagnetic railgun relies upon two
principles, necessity and feasibility. The former probes the question of whether or
not the Navy needs to add a railgun to its current arsenal, and the latter explores the
suitability of placing such a weapon onboard a naval vessel. That is to say, a naval
railgun must prove to be useful in future warfare tactic and yet still fall within a
platform’s technological constraints, such as power supply and structural design.
Therefore, although an electromagnetic railgun has the potential to revolutionize
naval warfare, the practicality of such a weapon must first hold up to these issues.

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In its simplest (and most commonly used) form, the rail gun differs from a
traditional electric motor in that no use is made of additional field windings (or
permanent magnets).This basic configuration is formed by a single loop of current
and thus requires high currents (e.g., of order one million amperes) to produce
sufficient accelerations (and muzzle velocities).A relatively common variant of this
configuration is the augmented rail gun in which the driving current is channeled
through additional pairs of parallel conductors, arranged to increase ("augment") the
magnetic field experienced by the moving armature. These arrangements reduce the
current required for a given acceleration. In electric motor terminology, augmented
rail guns are usually series-wound configurations.

Figure 2.1: Basic Design of rail gun

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The armature may be an integral part of the projectile, but it may also be
configured to accelerate a separate, electrically isolated or non-conducting
projectile. Solid, metallic sliding conductors are often the preferred form of rail gun
armature but plasma or hybrid armatures can also be used. A plasma armature is
formed by an arc of ionized gas that is used to push a solid, non-conducting payload
in a similar manner to the propellant gas pressure in a conventional gun. A hybrid
armature uses a pair of plasma contacts to interface a metallic armature to the gun
rails. Solid armatures may also transition into hybrid armatures, typically after a
particular velocity threshold is exceeded. A rail gun requires a pulsed DC power

Figure 2.2: Projectile in a rail gun

For potential military applications, rail guns are usually of interest because
they can achieve much greater muzzle velocities than guns powered by conventional
chemical propellants. Increased muzzle velocities with better aerodynamically
streamlined projectiles can convey the benefits of increased firing ranges while, in
terms of target effects, increased terminal velocities can allow the use of kinetic
energy rounds incorporating hit to kill guidance, as replacements for explosive
shells. Therefore, typical military rail gun designs aim for muzzle velocities in the
range of 2000–3500 m/s with muzzle energies of 5–50 MJ. For comparison, 50MJ
is equivalent to the kinetic energy of a school bus weighing 5 metric tons, travelling
at 509 km/h (316 mph). For single loop rail guns, these mission requirements require
launch currents of a few million amperes, so a typical rail gun power supply might
be designed to deliver a launch current of 5 MA for a few milliseconds.
As the magnetic field strengths required for such launches will typically be
approximately 10 tesla, most contemporary rail gun designs are effectively "air
cored" , i.e., they do not use ferromagnetic materials such as iron to enhance the

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 16

magnetic flux. However, if the bullet is magnetic, i.e., produces a magnetic field
perpendicular to the current flow, the force is augmented.

Figure 2.3: Current path

It may be noted that rail gun velocities generally fall within the range of those
achievable by two stage light gas guns; However, the latter are generally only
considered to be suitable for laboratory use while rail guns are judged to offer some
potential prospects for development as military weapons. Another light gas gun, the
Combustion Light Gas Gun in a 155 mm prototype form was projected to achieve
2500 m/s with a 70 calibre bullet. In some hypervelocity research projects,
projectiles are "pre injected" into rail guns, to avoid the need for a standing start, and
both two stage light gas guns and conventional powder guns have been used for this
role. In principle, if rail gun power supply technology can be developed to provide
safe, compact, reliable, combat survivable and lightweight units, then the total
system volume and mass needed to accommodate such a power supply and its
primary fuel can become less than the required total volume and mass for a mission
equivalent quantity of conventional propellants and explosive ammunition. Such a
development would then convey a further military advantage in that the elimination
of explosives from any military weapons platform will decrease its vulnerability to
enemy fire.
Motivated by the re-emergence of the all-electric ship concept where all
installed mechanical power is first converted to electric power, the U.S. Navy has
invested heavily in EML-gun technology as an alternative to conventional ordinance
that uses explosives. Since a railgun with a designed muzzle energy
of 63 MJ can achieve launch velocities of 2.5 km/sec with a projectile range on the
order of 200 nautical miles, this weapon destroys its target with kinetic energy, far
exceeding the range of current 5-inch guns, while avoiding the logistic hazard of

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transporting explosive shells. This capstone senior design project seeks to scale back
this lethality and focus on engineering a reduced-scale, desktop-size launcher that
demonstrates proof-of-concept while providing a reliable platform for follow-on

Figure 2.4: Working of a rail gun in detail

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Electromagnetic Rail Gun 19



A rail gun consists of two parallel metal rails (hence the name) connected to
an electrical power supply. When a conductive projectile is inserted between the
rails (at the end connected to the power supply), it completes the circuit. Electrons
flow from the negative terminal of the power supply up the negative rail, across the
projectile, and down the positive rail, back to the power supply. This current makes
the rail gun behave as an electromagnet, creating a magnetic field inside the loop
formed by the length of the rails up to the position of the armature. In accordance
with the right-hand rule, the magnetic field circulates around each conductor.
Since the current is in the opposite direction along each rail, the net magnetic field
between the rails (B) is directed at right angles to the plane formed by the central
axes of the rails and the armature.

Figure 3.1: Lorentz Force on Projectile

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In combination with the current (I) in the armature, this produces a Lorentz
force which accelerates the projectile along the rails, away from the power supply.
There are also Lorentz forces acting on the rails and attempting to push them apart,
but since the rails are mounted firmly, they cannot move. A very large power
supply, providing on the order of one million amperes of current, will create a
tremendous force on the projectile, accelerating it to a speed of many kilometres
per second (km/s). 20 km/s has been achieved with small projectiles explosively
injected into the rail gun. Although these speeds are possible, the heat generated
from the propulsion of the object is enough to erode the rails rapidly.
Under high use conditions, current rail guns would require frequent
replacement of the rails, or to use a heat resistant material that would be conductive
enough to produce the same effect. Notice that the Lorentz force is parallel to the
rails, acting away from the power supply. The magnitude of the force is determined
by the equation

F = (I)(L)(B)

where F is the net force, I is the current, L is the length of the rails and B is the
magnetic field. The force can be boosted by increasing either the length of the rails
or the amount of current. Because long rails pose design challenges, most rail guns
use strong currents on the order of a million amps to generate tremendous force.
The projectile, under the influence of the Lorentz force, accelerates to the end of
the rails opposite the power supply and exits through an aperture. The circuit is
broken, which ends the flow of current.

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When electricity flows in a long straight wire it creates a circular or
cylindrical magnetic field around the wire according to the right-hand rule.
According to right hand rule, if thumb is stretched in the direction of current flow in
a conductor then the curling fingers shows the direction of circular magnetic field
around that conductor.

Figure 3.2: Right hand grip rule


The left hand rule can be used to determine the direction in which the force
will act. When current flows through a conducting wire, and an external magnetic
field is applied across that flow, the conducting wire experiences a force
perpendicular both to that field and to the direction of the current flow (i.e they are
mutually perpendicular) . A left hand can be held, as shown in the illustration, so
as to represent three mutually orthogonal axes on the thumb, fore finger and
middle finger. Each finger is then assigned to a quantity (mechanical force,
magnetic field and electric current). If forefinger is pointing towards direction of

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magnetic field and middle finger in direction of flowing current then the thumb is
directed towards the direction of force.

Figure 3.3: Fleming left hand rule


Lorentz force law describes the force acting on a moving point charge q in
the presence of electromagnetic fields. The Lorentz Force is applied to an electric
charge that moves through a magnetic field. It is perpendicular to the direction of
the charge and the direction of the magnetic field. The direction of the force is
demonstrated by the Right Hand Rule. According to this rule when fingers are
pointing towards magnetic field and thumb directed along current flow then the
force acts perpendicular to the palm surface.

Figure 3.4: Direction of Lorentz Force

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Electromagnetic Rail Gun 24


A rail gun consists of two parallel metal rails connected to an electrical power
supply. When a conductive projectile is inserted between the rails (at the end
connected to the power supply), it completes the circuit. Electrons flow from the
negative terminal of the power supply up the negative rail, across the projectile, and
down the positive rail, back to the power supply. This current makes the rail gun
behave as an electromagnet, creating a magnetic field inside the loop formed by the
length of the rails up to the position of the armature.
In accordance with the right-hand rule, the magnetic field circulates around
each conductor. Since the current is in the opposite direction along each rail, the net
magnetic field between the rails (B) is directed at right angles to the plane formed
by the central axes of the rails and the armature. In combination with the current (I)
in the armature, this produces a Lorentz force which accelerates the projectile along
the rails, away from the power supply. There are also Lorentz forces acting on the
rails and attempting to push them apart, but since the rails are mounted firmly, they
cannot move. By definition, if a current of one ampere flows in a pair of ideal
infinitely long parallel conductors that are separated by a distance of one meter, then
the magnitude of the force on each meter of those conductors will be exactly 0.2
micro newtons. Furthermore, in general, the force will be proportional to the square
of the magnitude of the current and inversely proportional to the distance between
the conductors.
It also follows that, for rail guns with projectile masses of a few kg and bullet lengths
of a few cm, very large currents will be required to accelerate projectiles to velocities
of the order of 1000 m/s. A very large power supply, providing on the order of one
million amperes of current, will create a tremendous force on the projectile,
accelerating it to a speed of many kilometres per second (km/s). Although these
speeds are possible the heat generated from the propulsion of the
object is enough to erode the rails rapidly.
Under high use conditions, current rail guns would require frequent
replacement of the rails, or to use a heat resistant material that would be conductive

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 25

enough to produce the same effect. At this time it is generally acknowledged that it
will take major breakthroughs in material science and related disciplines to produce
high-powered rail guns capable of firing more than a few shots from a single set of
rails. The bullet must withstand these conditions for up to several rounds per minute
for thousands of shots without failure or significant degradation. These parameters
are well beyond the state of the art in materials science.


 The rails and projectiles must be built from strong conductive materials; The
rails need to survive the violence of an accelerating projectile, and heating
due to the large currents and friction involved.
 Some erroneous work has suggested that the recoil force in rail guns can be
redirected or eliminated; careful theoretical and experimental analysis
reveals that the recoil force acts on the breech closure just as in a chemical
 The rails also repel themselves via a sideways force caused by the rails being
pushed by the magnetic field, just as the projectile is.
 The rails need to survive this without bending and must be very securely
 Currently published material suggests that major advances in material
science must be made before rails can be developed that allow rail guns to
fire more than a few full power shots before replacement of the rails is


The power supply must be able to deliver large currents, sustained and
controlled over a useful amount of time. The most important gauge of power
supply effectiveness is the energy it can deliver.
The most common forms of power supplies used in rail guns are capacitors
which are slowly charged from other continuous energy sources. The rails need to
withstand enormous repulsive forces during shooting, and these forces will tend to
push them apart and away from the projectile. As rail/projectile clearances

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 26

increase, arcing develops, which causes rapid vaporization and extensive damage
to the rail surfaces and the insulator surfaces. This limited some early research rail
guns to one shot per service interval. The inductance and resistance of the rails and
power supply limit the efficiency of a rail gun design. The properties of materials
used in this project have been discussed in next sections.


The conducting rails are required to supply the rated maximum current to the
projectile, retain contact with the projectile, and supply a proper magnetic field to
create a Lorentz force. The geometry of the conductive rails, as well as the distance
between them, dictates the magnetic field. In addition to cost and ease of
machining, the key physical characteristics for candidate materials for both the
rails and armature are listed in Table. Though Tungsten and Tantalum are
considered for practical gun rails and armature due to their superior temperature
characteristics, the cost and uncertainty of working with these materials ruled them
out. The superior conductivity properties of copper made it an attractive choice for
the rails. So we chose copper to be used as rails in our rail gun project owing to its
fantastic conductivity property.

Table 4.1

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Railgun utilize electric conduction to propel armatures down the rails. There
are two types of systems employed by rail guns to launch a projectile. The simplest
is a conducting projectile that forms a circuit with the rails and is propelled down
the track. The more complicated version uses an insulated projectile that is pushed
by an armature.
Insulated projectile systems (IPS) are what all rail guns above four
kilometers per second utilize. Insulated projectiles are preferred for faster systems
because they will not deform inside the barrel, they allow for speeds above 4
kilometers per second, and, because there is less deformation in the projectile,
more uniform impact results. However; they are more complex, require the
addition of slightly more mass.
The projectile must house the rails, interface electrically with the capacitor
power, and interface mechanically with the injection system. It is important that the
bullet be simple to manufacture, requiring no tools or material unfamiliar to a
university machine shop. The key metric was all materials had to withstand a full-
power shot and not shatter or melt. The choice of material for our bullet to be used
was a tough decision since we were well aware that the high current passing through
the bullet can weld it between the rails. A material with suitable conductivity and
high melting property was to be used. After several study work we decided to use
graphite bullets since they have a high melting point around 800 degree Celsius and
is also a good conductor. Graphite is an electrical conductor. It can conduct
electricity due to the vast electron delocalization within the carbon layers. These
valence electrons are free to move, so are able to conduct electricity. However, the
electricity is primarily conducted within the plane of the layers.

4.3.3 Power Supply

It has been recognized from the earliest days of electric gun research, that
pulsed power is critical for its successful development. Conventional guns have
reached a high level of capability after hundreds of years of development in which
very energetic propellants have been created. Achieving similar levels of energy
density in a system that stores and transfers electrical energy is very difficult.

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Two common modular topologies based on capacitor storage were considered for
this project as shown in Figure

Figure 4.1: Power supply circuit

Each module of the circuit in Figure a consists of a capacitor, current shaping

inductor, closing switch, and a crowbar diode. The circuit operates by turning on the
switch, discharging the capacitor voltage, building up the inductor current, and then
after the capacitor has discharged having the inductor current continue to flow
through the crowbar diode. Subsequent modules are gated on to keep the aggregate
current supplied to the rails as constant as possible. In contrast, the Rayleigh network
shown in Figure b consists of a ladder of LC-stages. The team designed and
simulated each in Multisim, but decided on the Rayleigh network because it did not
require the expensive closing switches and their associated gating circuitry and
pressure clamps. The idea with the Rayleigh network is that the armature contacting
the rails will serve as the closing switch which will initiate discharging the network.

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In order to discharge a large reservoir of power, it must be stored. However,
in order to store power, it must be supplied. A capacitor bank may be a cheap and
fast was to store large quantities of electrical power, but it has a challenging design
parameter voltage. The energy stored in a capacitor is proportional to both the
capacitance and the square of the voltage across the capacitor. An increase in either
parameter increases the amount of the energy stored, yet an extended review of the
current market for capacitors showed that high voltage capacitors are generally
cheaper than high capacitance. In the interest of designing the EMRG so that it was
both affordable and high performing, high voltage capacitors were chosen as the
main form of energy storage.
The challenge of designing for high voltage capacitors is twofold; high voltage is
both dangerous and sparsely available. The power that runs through most facilities
is usually between 110 and 240 volts AC, which is only a small fraction of what
would optimally be available. In addition, wall power is potentially lethal, and an
improperly designed system runs the risk of exposing its operators to deadly
amounts of electrical energy. Increasing this voltage by an order of magnitude only
increases the level of danger it presents. Both of these considerations drove the
design of the power supply.

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 30


Electromagnetic Rail Gun 31


The rail gun designed in this project consists of three parts. First part consist
of three power generators are used in series to provide a total of 180 V
approximately, second and third part consists of copper rail bars and the graphite
projectile respectively. Copper was chosen for conducting rails because it has high
heat conductance and copper is not magnetic. Four pairs of permanent magnets are
put above and below the gap between the copper bars to provide magnetic field
needed to accelerate the projectile. The white sheet seen in the figure is acrylic sheet.
Acrylic sheet has smooth surface that is more slippery and not rough and as a result
will provide less friction during a launch. The permanent magnets we chose are rare
earth magnets. Each pair creates a magnetic field with the magnitude of 1.5 Tesla.
The current can be created in various ways. Most people use a bank of capacitors to
provide the transient large current. The advantages of using bank of capacitors are it
is relatively easily to discharge and the instant current amount can go up to 20,000
amperes. However, using such high current can produce a tremendous amount of
heat, which can damage the system. We have designed a capacitor bank using 10
capacitors of rating 50V and 5600 micro Farad. The capacitor are arranged in such
a way that five pairs of two capacitors connected in series have been joined parallel
with the help of copper strips and bolts.

Figure 5.1: Capacitor Bank

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Copper rails were machined to shape them so that the projectile may touch the
rails throughout the way of current flow. Copper rails along with acrylic sheet are
bolted. This assembly is encased in a wooden frame as shown in figure and bolted
hard so that repulsion may not cause the rails to fall apart. Two copper handles are
subjected outwards to provide proper connections with the capacitor bank.

Figure 5.2: front view of rail gun

In our several attempts high currents produced welded our projectile between
the rails. Also our capacitor terminals burnt down as they could not bear high
currents during experiments. To avoid melting of projectile between rails we had to
introduce an injector assembly that will provide a little push to the projectile to move
in between the rails from one end to avoid welding.

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Figure 5.3: Upper view of rail gun

The total amount of heat produced can easily destroy the experimental set-up
by melting the projectile or adhering the projectile with the rails it runs on. On the
other hand, the conventional railgun needs a high enough current to induce the
magnetic field along the accelerating path, therefore, the discharging time has to be
very small (in terms of milliseconds) to make the current high enough, meaning the
process of acceleration is as short as several milliseconds. As the magnetic field is
fully provided by the permanent magnets, the current needed in this design is much
smaller than that used in this railgun that depend on current to generate the magnetic
field. But if we avoid the use of magnets then high currents are needed to produce
strong magnetic field.

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 34

Figure 5.4: Final Product

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Rail guns have a number of potential practical applications, primarily for the
military. However, there are other theoretical applications currently being


Electrodynamic assistance to launch rockets has been studied. Space

applications of this technology would likely involve specially formed
electromagnetic coils and superconducting magnets. For space launches from Earth,
relatively short acceleration distances (less than a few km) would require very strong
acceleration forces, higher than humans can tolerate


Rail guns are being researched as weapons with projectiles that do not contain
explosives or propellants, but are given extremely high velocities: 2,500 m/s (8,200
ft/s) (approximately Mach 7 at sea level) or more. For comparison, the M16 rifle has
a muzzle speed of 930 m/s (3,050 ft/s), and the 16"/50 calibre Mark 7 gun that armed.
World War II American battleships has a muzzle speed of 760 m/s (2,490 ft/s)),
which because of its much greater projectile mass (up to 2,700 pounds) generated a muzzle
energy of 360 MJ and a downrange kinetic impact of energy of over 160 MJ, (see
also Project HARP).
By firing smaller projectiles at extremely high velocities, rail guns may yield
kinetic energy impacts equal or superior to the destructive energy of 5"/54 caliber
Mark 45 gun Naval guns, (which achieve up to 10MJ at the muzzle), but with much
greater range. Also, by firing more aerodynamically streamlined projectiles at
greater velocities, rail guns may achieve greater range, less time to target, and at
shorter ranges less wind drift, bypassing the physical limitations of conventional

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 37

Current rail gun technologies necessitate a long and heavy barrel, but a rail
gun’s ballistics far outperform conventional cannons of equal barrel lengths. Rail
guns can also deliver area of effect damage by detonating a bursting charge in the
projectile which unleashes a swarm of smaller projectiles over a large area. The first
weaponized rail gun planned for production, the General Atomics Blitzer system,
began full system testing in September 2010. The weapon launches a streamlined
discarding sabot round designed by Boeing's Phantom Works at 1,600 m/s (5,200
ft/s) (approximately Mach 5).
Rail guns are being examined for use as antiaircraft weapons to intercept air
threats, particularly antiship cruise missiles, in addition to land bombardment. A
supersonic sea skimming antiship missile can appear over the horizon 20 miles from
a warship, leaving a very short reaction time for a ship to intercept it. A rail gun
projectile can reach several times the speed of sound faster than a missile; Because
of this, it can hit a target, such as a cruise missile, much faster and farther away from
the ship.

Figure 6.1: Naval Weapons

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 38


Helical rail guns are multi turn rail guns that reduce rail and brush current by
a factor equal to the number of turns. Two rails are surrounded by a helical barrel
and the projectile or reusable carrier is also helical. The projectile is energized
continuously by two brushes sliding along the rails, and two or more additional
brushes on the projectile serve to energize and commute several windings of the
helical barrel direction in front of and/or behind the projectile.
The helical rail gun is a cross between a rail gun and a coil gun. They do not
currently exist in a practical, usable form. A helical rail gun was built at MIT in 1980
and was powered by several banks of, for the time, large capacitors (approximately
4 farads). It was about 3 meters long, consisting of 2 meters of accelerating coil and
1 meter of decelerating coil. It was able to launch a glider or projectile about 500


A plasma rail gun is a linear accelerator and a plasma energy weapon which,
like a projectile rail gun, uses two long parallel electrodes to accelerate a "sliding
short" armature. However, in a plasma rail gun, the armature and ejected projectile
consists of plasma, or hot, ionized, gas like particles, instead of a solid slug of
material. MARAUDER (Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultrahigh
Directed Energy and Radiation) is, or was, a United States Air Force Research
Laboratory project concerning the development of a coaxial plasma rail gun. It is
one of several United States Government efforts to develop plasma based projectiles.
The first computer simulations occurred in 1990, and its first published experiment
appeared on August 1, 1993. As of 1993 the project appeared to be in the early
experimental stages. The weapon was able to produce doughnut shaped rings of
plasma and balls of lightning that exploded with devastating effects when hitting
their target. The project's initial success led to it becoming classified, and only a few
references to MARAUDER appeared after 1993. The project may or may not have
been scrapped sometime after 1995.

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 39


Electromagnetic Rail Gun 40


Full-scale models have been built and fired, including a 90 mm (3.5 in) bore,
9 MJ kinetic energy gun developed by the US DARPA. Rail and insulator wear
problems still need to be solved before rail guns can start to replace conventional
weapons. Probably the oldest consistently successful system was built by the UK's
Defence Research Agency at Dundrennan Range in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. This
system was established in 1993 and has been operated for over 10 years.
The Yugoslavian Military Technology Institute developed, within a project
named EDO0, a rail gun with 7 kJ kinetic energy, in 1985. In 1987 a successor was
created, project EDO1, that used projectile with a mass of 0.7 kg (1.5 lb) and
achieved speeds of 3,000 m/s (9,800 ft/s), and with a mass of 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) reached
speeds of 2,400 m/s (7,900 ft/s). It used a track length of 0.7 m (2.3 ft). According
to those working on it, with other modifications it was able to achieve a speed of
4,500 m/s (14,800 ft/s). The aim was to achieve projectile speed of 7,000 m/s (23,000
ft/s). China is now one of the major players in electromagnetic launchers; in 2012 it
hosted the 16th International Symposium on Electromagnetic Launch Technology
(EML 2012) at Beijing. Satellite imagery in late 2010 suggested that tests were being
conducted at an armor and artillery range near Baotou, in the Inner Mongolia
Autonomous Region


The United States military is funding rail gun experiments. At the University
of Texas at Austin Center for Electro mechanics, military rail guns capable of
delivering tungsten armor piercing bullets with kinetic energies of nine mega joules
have been developed. 9 MJ is enough energy to deliver 2 kg (4.4 lb) of projectile at
3 km/s (1.9 mi/s)—at that velocity, a sufficiently long rod of tungsten or another
dense metal could easily penetrate a tank, and potentially pass through it, (see

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 41


The United States Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division

demonstrated an 8 MJ rail gun firing 3.2 kg (7.1 lb) projectiles in October 2006 as a
prototype of a 64 MJ weapon to be deployed aboard Navy warships. The main
problem the U.S. Navy has had with implementing a rail gun cannon system is that
the guns wear out due to the immense pressures, stresses and heat that are generated
by the millions of amperes of current necessary to fire projectiles with mega joules
of energy. Such weapons, while not nearly as powerful as a cruise missile like a
BGM109 Tomahawk cruise missile that will deliver 3000 MJ of destructive energy
to a target, will theoretically allow the Navy to deliver more granular firepower at a
fraction of the cost of a missile, and will be much harder to shoot down versus future
defensive systems. For context another relevant comparison is the Rheinmetal
120mm gun used on main battle tanks will generate 9 MJ of muzzle energy. A MK
8 round fired from the 16 inch guns of an Iowa class battleship at 2,500 ft/s (762
m/s) has 356 MJ of kinetic energy at the muzzle. Since then, BAE Systems has
delivered a 32 MJ prototype (muzzle energy) to the U.S. Navy. The same amount of
energy is released by the detonation of 4.8 kg (11 lb) of C4. On January 31, 2008,
the U.S. Navy tested a rail gun that fired a projectile at 10.64 MJ with a muzzle
velocity of 2,520 m/s (8,270 ft/s).The power was provided by a new 9 mega joule
prototype capacitor bank using solid stat switches and high energy density capacitors
delivered in 2007 and an older 32MJ pulse power system from the US Army’s Green
Farm Electric Gun Research and Development Facility developed in the late 1980s
that was previously refurbished by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems
(EMS) Division. It is expected to be ready between 2020 and 2025. A test of a rail
gun took place on December 10, 2010, by the US Navy at the Naval Surface Warfare
Center Dahlgren Division. During the test, the Office of Naval Research set a world
record by conducting a 33 MJ shot from the rail gun, which was built by BAE

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 42


Rail guns may also be miniaturized for inertial confinement nuclear fusion.
Fusion is triggered by very high temperature and pressure at the core. Current
technology calls for multiple lasers, usually over 100, to concurrently strike a fuel
pellet, creating a symmetrical compressive pressure. Rail guns may be able to trigger
fusion by firing energetic plasma from multiple directions. The process developed
involves four key steps.
 Plasma is pumped into a chamber.
 When the pressure is great enough, a diaphragm will rupture, sending
gas down the rail.
 Shortly afterwards, a sufficient voltage is applied to the rails, creating a
conduction path of ionized gas.
 This plasma is accelerated down the rail, eventually being ejected at a
large velocity.
 The rails and dimensions are in the order of centimetres.


Major technological and operational hurdles must be overcome before rail

guns can be deployed:


To date rail gun demonstrations, while impressive, have not demonstrated

ability to fire multiple full power shots from the same set of rails. The Navy has
claimed hundreds of shots from the same set of rails. In a March 2014 statement to
the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House
Armed Services Committee, Chief of Naval Research Admiral Matthew Klunder
stated, "Barrel life has increased from tens of shots to over 400, with a program path
to achieve 1000 shots." However, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will not
confirm that the 400 shots are full power shots. Rail guns should be able to fire 6
rounds per minute with a rail life of about 3000 rounds.

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 43


A future capability critical to fielding a real rail gun weapon is developing a

robust guidance package that will allow the rail gun to fire at distant targets or to hit
incoming missiles. On June 22, 2015, General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Systems
announced that projectiles with onboard electronics survived the whole rail gun
launch environment and performed their intended functions in four consecutive tests
on June 9 and 10 June at the U.S. Army’s Dug way Proving Ground in Utah. The
onboard electronics successfully measured inbore accelerations and projectile
dynamics, for several kilometres downrange, with the integral data link continuing
to operate after the projectiles impacted the desert floor, which is essential for
precision guidance.

Electromagnetic Rail Gun 44


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Electromagnetic Rail Gun 45

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Electromagnetic Rail Gun 46
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Electromagnetic Rail Gun 47