Dec 132010

A century-old concept may be the next big thing in military technology. General Atomics has developed and test fired a rail gun. The rail gun uses a 33 megajoule current impulse to accelerate a projectile at speeds up to Mach 8. Here’s a video of the test.

This high-tech concept has surprisingly old roots. The first electromagnetic gun, a “coilgun,” was invented by Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland on the eve of WWI. Birkeland was a pioneer in plasma physics, but observatories to view the aurora were an expensive proposition, so he undertook a career as an inventor. He invented a process to electrically create synthetic fertilizer and became a co-founder of Norsk Hydro, Norway’s first major multi-national corporation. ÆtherCzar previously discussed Birkeland in the context of reviewing Lucy Jago’s The Northern Lights: the true story of the man who unlocked the secrets of the aurora borealis. An electromagnetic gun similar to a rail gun was invented not long thereafter by André Louis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee (U.S. Patent 1,370,200 and U.S. Patent 1,421,435).

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Hans Schantz is CTO of The Q-Track Corporation, and a co-inventor of NFER® technology. His prior work experience includes stints with IBM, the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, The ElectroScience Lab of the Ohio State University, and Time Domain Corporation. Author of The Art and Science of Ultra-wideband Antennas (Artech House, 2005), his forty U.S. patents include antennas, RF systems, RF-based location systems, and related inventions. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE, a member of the Institute of Navigation, and an amateur radio operator [KC5VLD]. Schantz earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds degrees in Industrial Engineering and Physics from Purdue University. Dr. Schantz blogs at ÆtherCzar and is @ÆtherCzar on Twitter. His wife, Barbara, invented The Baby Dipper® Bowl. Hans and Barbara have two sets of twins: girls aged ten, and boys six years old. The views expressed are the author's and are not necessarily the views of his employer, clients, investors, sponsors, or customers.

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