How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

Lmao it wouldn’t have been approved for a senior design if that’s how it was proposed.

US Navy would like to know your location.

Student:”Can I make a railgun?”

Student:”How about a Mass Driver to deliver payloads into space?”

Student:*Proceeds to build railgun anyways, like a boss

That's how a friend of mine passed the university, saying its early prototype.

This was suppose to have sound. it sounds like a shotgun blast

Please redo, would love to hear

What's the energy transfer efficiency

Hey that's sick! You know what I made for senior design!?
A camera rail. that only worked sometimes. And not at all 5 minutes before the final presentation because it blue smoked.

For me senior design we theorized something that already exists, made some cad models, bought a bunch of parts to build the frame, then COVID pretty much ended the project. I'm glad cuz it was a shit show.

Why is there a muzzle flash?

The air became ionized from the projectiles air friction.

Maybe the projectile that is slightly vaporised and turned into plasma

There are quite a few factors, the fire cycle tends to vaporize a part of the rail during acceleration. Expansion of heat. etc

A rail gun, you made a rail gun.

Yea, but you can’t call it a railgun! School would never approve a railgun. You need to be creative, he was cheeky and called it an Electromagnetic Linear Accelerator, just a more technical term for a railgun. I’d guess the railgun was the initial intention, but too much for the school to approve.

Let’s start with a warning: Don’t try this if you have no idea what you are doing. Coilgun experiments often run on high voltages so there’s a pretty great chance you’ll get electrocuted. I am not responsible for any injuries. This is a scientific small scale experiment meant to enhance our understanding of the physics behind electromagnetic acceleration.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

A so called coilgun or gaussrifle is basically an electromagnetic linear accelerator. Coilguns use, as the name says, a coil in order to create a magnetic field – it’s a different setup than in a railgun!
A coilgun almost allways consists of these three basic components:

A coil made out of insulated wire.
(The wire used may look like bare copper wire, but it is enamelled wire).

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

Last but not least, a switch which connects the energy source to the coil. This could be a normal power switch, but since most coilguns have high currents I recommend using a thyristor.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

How it works:We have a coil wound over a non-conductive tube which is a coilgun’s barrel then. It has to be non conductive (plastic or something comparable) because otherwise the coil’s magnetic field would simply cancel out itself inside the tube. The projectile has to be made of a ferro magnetic material, that means stuff that reacts to magnetic fields.If a short current pulse is passed through the coil via our charged capacitor and the switch, the projectile will be pulled into the coil. If the pulse ends before the projectile gets to the coil’s middle, it’ll leave with a gain in velocity. The main difficulties with coilguns are winding an appropriate coil, finding the appropriate voltage and capacity and of course timing and positioning of the ferromagnetic material in front of the coil. Here is a short animation of the magnetic field when a projectile enters the coil:

The more windings a coil has, the stronger is its magnetic field. But if you use too long and thin wire with your experimental coil setup, either the wire will eventually burn through or the coil’s electric resistance will go up and lower the current and thus weaken the magnetic field.
My test circuit looks like this:

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

I charged the capacitor with a little transformer circuit taken from a disposable camera’s flash.
If you don’t know how to charge a capacitor click here.
There’s a test video, too:

Further increasing of the velocity is possible by adding more stages which means not more than adding more coils. These coils need to be triggered automatically since the projectile is already in motion and you’re not able to push the button at the right moment. Many people use light barriers mounted in front of the second stage. Here’s a schematic of my second stage light barrier trigger (Ignore the safety switchtes and safety lights):

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

You can see the second stage, a light barrier in front of it and a little screw which gets pushed (normally it would fly through by itself due to the first stage) into the beam. I built this two staged test rig with multiple measurment devices in order to learn more about positioning of the projectile in front of the coil, the coil itself, capacity and voltage and timed triggering.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

There are a lot of safety switches and control Leds just because of safety matters. Voltage range is from 0-400V and one stage has a capacity of 4400uF. I used several projectiles of different masses.
With a little positioning device I was able to test out many starting positions.
Due to a second measurement coil I was able to record the indirect magnetic pulse of the first stage firing. The other two peaks are for velocity measurement.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

What are coilguns capable of?

Coilguns are scalable to very large applications, possibly as large as a mass driver to put payloads into orbit. It has no moving parts thus there’s the magic of invisible forces at work. It requires no special construction techniques or unusual tools. The coilgun technique can also be used to build so called levitrons which are “no gravity hovering devices”.Click here to see my coilgun models!

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gunThis experiment is a simple way of demonstrating the distribution of the field inside a solenoid and how it effects ferrous metal objects.

This experiment simply consists of a plastic or cardboard tube with a coil of wire wrapped around one end. The coil can be powered by a set of standard batteries. the more batteries used the more powerful the magnetic field will be.

The tube used to for the coil around should be quite narrow. The case of a pen such as a biro is ideal. You can try using different sized batteries and different numbers of turns on the coil to produce different strength fields.

When a metal object is placed part way into the coil it is ready for firing. The metal should be ferrous (sticks to a magnet) and quite small. A metal rod of about 2 – 3mm wide and 10 – 20mm long is best. Something like a small nail or a screw with the head cut off should work fine. If a small rod magnet is used, it will work much better but make sure it’s inserted the right way around, or it could backfire.

To fire the coil gun you simply tap the switch. If you press it for too long, the projectile will either stop in the middle or come back out the wrong end. You can practice different methods and different coil and battery sizes to see what results you get. An alternative firing method would be to use a circuit such as the PWM-OCX which can give repeated pulses or a time you can set yourself.

For higher speed projectiles, it is possible to use multiple coils and fire them in sequence so that each one will further accelerate the projectile. Each successive pulse must be shorter than the previous one due to the projectile spending less time in the acceleration region. If the pulses were too long, they would drag the projectile back, slowing it down. Our 3 channel time delay generator could be used for controlling the pulse timing to a transistor on each coil.

I’m using mains power for my presentation because I don’t have enough time to get caps but I wanna use a Marx capacitor chain for when I’m playing around with it.

I built one for my senior design project. Pitched the project as an electromagnetic linear accelerator for space launch Has a 30kJ power bank.

That’s some good marketing right there

Someone tried to build a railgun for the senior design project in my program and the school shut it down.

They should have called it something else. Like "linear accelerator for hyperloop pods", or something.

ooh sounds awesome! How many stages are you planning and what size projectiles?

I’m using a quarter inch diameter ball bearing to simulate a large mass object to sell my system as an electromagnetic launcher used to launch vehicles into space. Similar to what u/drrascon was mentioning up above.

We did a mini rail gun for a physics project in my high school, we just followed some diagram. But it was a cool experience tho, it shoot nails at a non lethal velocity. My teacher didn't appreciate it since she wanted flashy things to brag about to the principal.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

Have you ever seen one of those roller coasters that shoots out of the station at an insanely high speed? These roller coasters don’t need to climb hills first to use gravitational potential energy—their power comes from magnetism and energy conservation.

A series of electromagnets (magnets made by pumping electrical current through coils of wire) alternately push and pull on the rollercoaster, pumping up its speed pretty quickly. Some engineers have imagined using the same idea to launch objects into space (from, say, a base on the Moon) without using rockets.

In this project, you’re going to build a very simple magnetic accelerator to launch steel balls at targets. What could possibly go wrong?

Problem

Build a simple magnetic linear accelerator.

Materials

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

  • Wooden ruler with groove along the middle
  • Four small, powerful magnets (e.g., neodymium magnets)
  • Nine steel balls, roughly 5/8” in diameter
  • Tape
  • Hobby knife
  • Safety Goggles

Procedure

  1. Place the ruler (flat side down) on a table.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

  1. Lay one magnet in the ruler groove, about 2.5” from the ruler’s end. Use the tape to secure the magnet to the ruler and the knife to trim the tape to the size of the magnet.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

  1. Repeat step 2 with each of the remaining three magnets, placing each about 2.5” away from the preceding magnet.
  2. To the right side of each magnet, place two steel balls in the groove.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

  1. Place a “target” a few inches to the right of the ruler. Your tape dispenser will work fine.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

  1. Place the ninth ball in the groove on the far left end of the ruler (opposite the target).

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

  1. Put your safety goggles on.
  2. Let the ball go and stand back!

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

Results

The ball will be attracted to the first magnet and set off a chain reaction of balls firing between the magnets until the last one flies off the ruler at high speed to strike its target.

What you just saw is a fantastic example of energy conservation. Energy from one ball gets transferred to the next, and then to the next, and so on. But where is all the energy in the last ball coming from if the first ball starts off from rest?

The answer is in the magnets.

Before the starting ball is released, there is potential energy stored up between the ball and the first magnet. The magnet and ball feel an attractive force, but your finger is preventing anything from happening. Once you let go of the ball, it gets drawn towards the magnet (which won’t move because it’s taped down). Potential energy gets converted to kinetic energy—the energy of motion. This is no different then holding a ball in the air and letting it go.

Eventually the ball strikes the magnet—but where does all that energy go? Well, it gets transferred to the balls on the other side of the magnet. The ball closest to the magnet is held pretty tight, but the second ball is farther away and doesn’t feel as strong an attraction to the magnet. This means there’s enough kinetic energy from the first ball to send this ball flying off with nearly the same amount of energy. (That’s why we need two balls stuck to the other side of the magnet: to lessen the attractive force a bit. Try getting it to work with only one ball loaded up next to each magnet and see what happens.)

This second ball is launched at roughly the same velocity as the first ball achieved. As this second ball gets drawn to the second magnet, the attractive force causes it to accelerate and hit the second magnet at a higher velocity than the first ball hit the first magnet. The third ball takes off with the highest velocity achieved by the second ball, and since it gets accelerated by the third magnet in turn, it strikes third magnet faster and harder than the first two balls struck their respective magnets.

Are you seeing a pattern begin to emerge? With each added magnet, more kinetic energy accumulates in each launched ball. The last ball takes off with the combined kinetic energies of all the balls that came before it!

In principle, you can add more rulers and magnets and get the final ball moving as fast as you like—up to a point. Eventually, the balls would be moving fast enough to break the magnets, a limit for which I’m sure your target is very thankful.

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How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

The Magnetic Recoilless Assault Weapon-1A (MRAW-1A) is the next evolution in the collaborative Acheron Security-Misriah Armory next generation weapons project. MRAW-1A is a compact channel linear accelerator weapon used by the United Nations Space Command, specifically within the Spartan Branch. While the MRPW was being field tested, the MRAW began preliminary design and prototype manufacturing processes.

Contents

Overview

Introduced following the successful field testing of the MRPW-1A , a similar project which developed a rail-gun designated marksman weapon alternative for Spartan Operatives, the MRAW-1A offers an assault weapon firing system elegantly married to the ferocious anti-armor / anti-shield capabilities of a rail-gun power and ammunition chassis. Piggy-backing on both the MRPW-1A and the earlier ARC-920 as well as the tried and tested Misriah Armory standard, the MRAW-1A is the culmination of advanced technologies, a legacy of reliable weapons manufacturing, and a hard pressed drive to deliver effective equipment to soldiers on the field.

Design Specifications

Through the use of parallel conducting rails, ammunition is accelerated to incredible speeds. Using innovative internal mechanical system the MRAW-1A is able to continuously fire to the completion of its magazine. This is done through advanced cooling systems, oscillating rail currents, and decreased power requirements. The decreased intended range of use from that of the ARC-920 and MRPW-1A allow lower power requirement parameters to keep the highly energized rails from buckling while still offering shield shredding and armor splitting power at close to medium range.

Amenities

Characteristic of the collaborative projects previous iterations, MRAW-1A’s feature S.P.R.T.N. specifically tuned for close to medium range engagements and ‘around-the-corner-shots’.

Production Notes and Related Projects

Collaborative Ambitions

Manufactured and designed through an Acheron Security and Misriah Armory joint contract the MRAW-1A is the second iteration and features lessons learned, technological improvements, and practical use on the battlefield from two reliable and long-standing companies. The MRAW-1A was made possible through the MRPW-1A success in the field, the MRAW-1A is expected to make countless future projects achievable.

Electromagnetic Linear Accelerator Experiment. Plasma armature. Rail guns are a good way to accelerate a mass using electric current. Basically when you run a current through a wire; the wire wants to become a streight line. If you have a closed circuit, the wire wants to become straight as well, but can only become round. When you run a current through the rails and the projectile in between, the circuit loop wants to become a circle, however the only variable that can change is the projectile displacement. This causes the projectile to accelerate. The major problem with rail guns is that the projectiles want to weld themselves to the rails, when high current is passed throguh. Some people suggest using graphite as the projectile armature. I will be using what is called, “plasma armature”. The theory behind plasma armature is that a piece of metal explodes between the rails and the electric arc itself is doing the pushing, on the back of the projectile, therefor the projectile will be made of non-conductive material. The metalic vaporization will also add a kick start to the projectile. Hopefully the electric arc doesn’t get ahead of the projectile itself.

RAILGUN SHOT #001

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Velocity: >24 m/s
Capacitor Energy: 5 kJ
Projectile Energy: >0.26 J
Efficiency: >0.0052%

Comments: Because the projectile had an inelastic collision with the pendulum, only a lower bound reading could be made. The projectile bounced off of the pendulum taking with it the remaining momentum. The reason the projectile did not penetrate the apple is credited to the bellow freezing temperatures currently in New York. The apple hung overnight and froze solid before the test shot. The second shot will use a softer substance in order to achieve an inelastic collision.

Variables:
Mprojectile = 0.9 gm
Mpendulum = 213 gm
Lpendulum = 61 cm
Delta X = 2.5 cm
Delta Y = (61 cm) – (cos(sin -1 ((2.5 cm) / (61 cm))) * (61 cm)) = 0.053 cm

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Rail errosion from the plasma armature. Thanks to the plasma armature, the damage to the rails was very minimal and the rails are ready for the next shot.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

The spot weld marks from the rail clamps/terminals.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

0.9 gram Delrin projectile.

RAILGUN SHOT #002

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Velocity: 30 m/s
Capacitor Energy: 5 kJ
Projectile Energy: 1.04 J
Efficiency: 0.0208%

Comments: The second shot was very exciting because it would be the shot which told me exactly the railgun output. My ballistic pendulum setup now used a PVC container filled with gelatin which would guarantee an inelastic collision. The video shows the projectile lodging into the pendulum. You will also see a plastic spacer flying out of the projectile. Apparently, the spacer, which fills the gap behind the projectile, has compressed from the foil vaporization and shot out after the projectile. My mercury contactor which triggered shot 01 had internally failed and I was forced to manually trigger the railgun setup. Armed with welding goggles, ear plugs and a long stick I fired the railgun, which was a pretty frightening experience. After both videos were captured I was able to calculate a rough velocity, kinetic energy and efficiency using a ruler as a distance reference, a video editing program, and then an image editing program to make pixel-accurate distance measurements. Looking over the videos I noticed that there was much energy loss due to sparking and gasket leaks which isn’t a big deal on this railgun prototype, however tighter machining tolerances will improve efficiency by a huge factor.

Variables:
Mprojectile = 2.3 gm
Mpendulum = 304 gm
Lpendulum = 64 cm
Delta X = 5.7 cm
Delta Y = (64 cm) – (cos(sin -1 ((5.7 cm) / (64 cm))) * (64 cm)) = 0.258 cm

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2.3 gram Delrin, steel core/tip projectile. This projectile is sharper than the previous and has a steel core for higher mass.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

This is the top view of the rail enclosure after the shot. You can see signs of gasket leakage where the fiber glass enclosure is blackened.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

This is the damage done to the rails after the second shot. The rails have not yet been cleaned.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

This is the damage done to the terminal clamp portion of the rails before the rails were cleaned.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

After cleaning the rails (not using steel wool or sand paper) you can see that the damage isn’t at all as bad as it seemed, and the rails can be used over and over again. In a field version of this railgun the rails can be quickly and easily cleaned with some kind of steel wool and cloth material that can be pulled through the barrel.

How to construct an electromagnetic linear accelerator (linear homopolar) or rail gun

This second shot shows that using graphite to improve terminal coupling with the rails wasn’t a good idea as it caused more damage to the rails than the first shot. Graphite has somewhat of a high resistance and possibly vaporized during the current pulse.

His finalist year: 1973
His finalist project: Building a way to launch objects from the moon
What led to the project: Growing up as the eldest of eight children of a University of Arizona materials science professor and a biochemist-turned-homemaker in the 1960s, Joseph Demer was always designing his own experiments. For instance, he built a low-frequency radar system on the roof of his parents’ Tucson house to measure the height of the ionosphere—an electrically charged layer of the atmosphere that starts about 45 miles (70 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.

His finalist year: 1973

His finalist project:
Building a way to launch objects from the moon

What led to the project: Growing up as the eldest of eight children of a University of Arizona materials science professor and a biochemist-turned-homemaker in the 1960s, Joseph Demer was always designing his own experiments. For instance, he built a low-frequency radar system on the roof of his parents’ Tucson house to measure the height of the ionosphere—an electrically charged layer of the atmosphere that starts about 45 miles (70 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.

In 8th grade—around the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing—he got the idea to try building an electromagnetic linear accelerator (something akin to a rail gun that would use electromagnetism to accelerate projectiles to high speeds) based on the "far-fetched idea" that since lunar gravity is lower than terrestrial gravity, it might conceivably be more efficient to extract minerals from the moon and launch them into space to build space stations there than to lob such materials from Earth. Ideally, the launching machine would use electrical energy (which he figured could be produced on the moon via nuclear or solar power).

So he built the accelerator, hand-winding the magnetic coils, and did a number of experiments in his backyard to check how far he could shoot a given chunk of steel or iron. ("I began by shooting short distances inside the house, but it became clear that wasn’t going to work," he says.) He refined the machine over the next four years until it shot metal almost 100 feet (30 meters), entered it in the 1973 Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and landed a finalist spot.

The effect on his career: Going to Washington, D.C., for the finalist competition was quite an adventure—"I’d never been on a commercial airplane before," he says. Then, all of a sudden, he got to ride on many of them. Due to a scheduling conflict with the Arizona State University debate championships (Demer was also active in debating, a skill possibly honed by having seven brothers and sisters), he flew to Washington, back home to Arizona to compete, then returned to D.C. over the course of a few days. Although he came in 12th in the Westinghouse competition, he won Arizona’s top debating prize.

For awhile, it looked like he might pursue a career in something like communications. As a kid, he’d been an amateur radio operator, eventually earning his broadcast engineering license. So, in college at the University of Arizona, he got a job at the local NBC affiliate running the transmitter installation on a remote mountain peak outside Tucson. One of his first projects was broadcasting the Watergate hearings. He majored in electrical engineering, however, and then wound up choosing a biomechanical engineering specialty within that.

After college, he decided to earn an MD/PhD at Johns Hopkins University, where he became fascinated by the study of eye movements—"a very direct application of engineering ideas to physiology," he says. Through an internship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, a residency in pediatric ophthalmology at Texas Children’s Hospital, and later an appointment at the University of California, Los Angeles’s school of medicine, he specialized in understanding and treating strabismus—a disorder in which the eyes don’t properly align. (A common symptom is when people are "cross-eyed".) Whereas most people don’t even think about the fact that their two eyes naturally move in the same direction, "it isn’t simple at all," Demer says—and when it doesn’t happen, patients can have a lot of trouble with daily activities like studying and sports.

What he’s doing now: These days, Demer splits his time between doing strabismus corrective surgery on patients and building complex biomechanical models of how the eyes work with the goal of coming up with better treatments.

Although the eyeball, being a sphere, can in theory rotate in any direction, it usually only rotates in a certain subset of these directions, in accordance with something called Listing’s law, notes Demer’s colleague Joel Miller, a senior scientist at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. "People had been searching in vain for decades for brain circuitry that coordinated the muscles to work this way," Miller says.

But by working with data gathered from Demer’s patients, Miller and Demer determined that the connective tissues and muscles around the eye functioned more like a set of pulleys to move the eye according to Listing’s law, "without the brain being bothered," he says. "This discovery showed that much of what underlies normal eye movement lies in the therapeutically accessible orbit, as opposed to being hidden deep in the brain." This finding caused quite a bit of excitement in the field of ophthalmology, because treating the area around the eye is quite a bit more feasible than trying to rewire something in the brain.

Also still causing excitement for Demer? Airplanes. He has a pilot’s license and owns a small craft that he uses for family trips—easier because there are only five immediate members of his family, rather than the 10 he grew up with. He flies to Arizona to visit extended family, and occasionally to places like Catalina Island off the California coast. "My family enjoys it," he says, "and you beat some of the traffic."