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How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks

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Duane Benson
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Duane Benson   10/16/2012 5:39:35 AM
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I think that en mass, people tend to not truly recognize dangers or threats until a significant even happens to demonstrate that threat. On an individual level, there are plenty of people that can recognize threats, which is why we have articles and studies. But it's the masses that approve funding and or demand action.

EMPCover
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
EMPCover   10/16/2012 4:12:34 PM
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Mr. Benson, You are right that it does take a large group to push for significant funding. The EE community is just the right group to lead that charge. It is important for EEs to understand the threat. There is a lot of misinformation and general disbelief in the media. There are also things that EE can do as individuals, both to protect your family and your business. The first thing we always recommend is to build a basic three-day emergency kit, as recommended by FEMA and the Red Cross. You should have one at home... and also be sure your business has a kit. How will your staff survive if they are stuck at work for two days without power? Will your building have water if the pumps shut off? Second, since you are reading an EE article, you probably need to figure out how to protect backup electronics. Our site has a lot more information on that.

FDunn3
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
FDunn3   10/18/2012 3:59:18 AM
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You don'y need to stock up on food or gasoline, generators, etc when you have the weapons and know how to get what you need.

przemek0
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
przemek0   10/19/2012 2:20:00 PM
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That sounds ominous: are you saying that with weapons you can take it from the people who did prepare and stock up? Don't be shy, say what you mean.

Bob.Gilbertson
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Bob.Gilbertson   10/19/2012 6:43:08 PM
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Unfortunately, a vulnerabilty is often ignored until an event happens. There is no economic incentive to design products for this even though IEC test standards exist http://www.emcs.org/acstrial/newsletters/winter08/hpem.html and test equipment is available http://www.apelc.com/system4.html. The EMP Commission Chairman has a good summary at http://images.military.com/DT/images/Graham.pdf

NITESSH
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
NITESSH   10/16/2012 9:39:10 AM
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can anyone explain about geomagnetically induced current blockers

KB3001
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
KB3001   10/16/2012 10:14:06 AM
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Probably a circuit with some form of shunt capacitance. I believe Government and energy firms are taking this threat more seriously nowadays.

agk
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
agk   10/16/2012 12:46:21 PM
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A dangerous idea.But going into space and doing this is not so easy with the present tight rules and regulations of flying things into the space.

Etmax
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Etmax   10/19/2012 12:13:55 AM
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Remember that if you were say a terrorist on US soil that smuggled in a missile with a nuclear warhead, you would only need to launch it vertically to the correct height which would take a few minutes. In that time frame there could be no response from the military.

RTewell
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
RTewell   10/16/2012 12:57:43 PM
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No need to use a rocket. Weather balloons work just fine. You only need to get to between 30 and 50 kilometers (easy peasy for a weather balloon). Dude on Sunday flew to 39km in a helium balloon and jumped out. Another guy, took off with weather balloons in a lawn chair. No way to police or stop it. In fact, a weather balloon with some sort of very easily accessible "drone" technology (electric motors) to allow it to be "steered" - would be ideal. Could likely be done with R/C parts and a couple of iPhones. Might be a fun experiment...hmmmm... Not the EM pulse part...but the steerable weather balloon part.

ReneCardenas
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
ReneCardenas   10/16/2012 3:24:39 PM
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Sylvie, No to belittle this threat, but I am among the skeptics that think this issue has been over blown, not to the same level as Y2K but if you think on the basic electromagnetic properties of such weapon. That such pulse effects decay at the square root ratio from the distance of impact. So unless many weapons are deployed at all mayor urban areas, at all critical power plant sites and industrial sites. The threat is regional in nature. No dooms day scenario, USA has an advantage over European and Asian countries where the population densities are greater, most people would survive, it would some losses but most people would overcome such tragedy. America will endure.

EMPCover
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
EMPCover   10/16/2012 3:59:45 PM
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ReneCardenas, EMP pulses don't directly follow the inverse-square law because they are not point-radiation sources. Most of the EM energy is not generated at the blast location. An EMP basically turns the atmosphere into a huge phased-array antenna. The most important energy is generated two ways. First, the E1 pulse is generated when the explosion's gamma rays hit the upper atmosphere. The Compton effect creates a current that radiates generally downward. The frequency range is generally 100 kHZ to 1 GHz. Second is the E3 pulse. The fireball from the high-altitude blast deforms the earth's magnetic sphere asymmetrically. This 'heaving' generates lower frequency EM which couples with transmission wires. The energy lasts from 10 seconds to up to 3 to 4 minutes. You are right, however, that some experts overhype the issue. The most likely attack is using a bomb that can only produce regional or multi-regional damage. (See our site's EMP simulator for graphics.) The worry we have, however, is that the 'over-hyping' comes from specialists who have the clearances to see the classified information. These experts say that there are credible designs for super-EMP bombs. They say that these could be much smaller nuclear bombs, but specifically designed for EMP. So these worried experts are talking about worst-case scenarios. The more-likely attack would be regional. Of course, most people dismissed warnings that an airplane could collapse buildings like the twin towers. They also thought that Pearl Harbor couldn't be attacked with torpedoes because it was too shallow. The experts say that these specialized bombs could cause a coast-to-coast blackout. (Of course, you could also do the same with a couple of multi-megaton warheads. That size blast, however, would likely kick off a global thermonuclear war.)

AlPothoof
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
AlPothoof   10/17/2012 3:29:18 PM
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ReneCardenas, It doesn't have to be a nuke or regional; plug "Carrington event" into your favorite search engine and remember that we are approaching solar max.

SouthernKiwi
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
SouthernKiwi   10/20/2012 12:53:25 AM
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Of particular concern for the grid is the large transformers on it. Lead times for these right now are in the region of months - and we are not facing the grid being down at the manufacturing plants concerned. Imagine an event happening early January taking out 20 of these across the USA or Europe. I have a 5kW generator for the house that runs of the gas utility - who knows if that would still be able to be supplied though?

jaybus0
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
jaybus0   10/20/2012 1:41:00 PM
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Indeed. In August 1859 a large CME caused a very bright aurora that "turned night into day" in Panama. Telegraph communications were impossible accross America and Europe for nearly two days. Sooner or later, we WILL again take a direct hit from a large CME. It wasn't a great diruption in 1859, when telegraph machines used hand operated mechanical switches, but it will be a huge disruption now.

AlPothoof
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
AlPothoof   10/17/2012 3:33:20 PM
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ReneCardenas, It doesn't have to be a nuke or regional: plug "carrington event" into your favorite search engine and remember that we are approaching solar max.

EMPCover
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
EMPCover   10/16/2012 3:29:16 PM
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RTewell is right... a balloon would work. That is a threat to the U.S. West Coast especially, since the upper level winds would carry the balloon the right direction. To use a balloon for the East Coast, you would need to launch from the Midwest. (This assumes that terrorists would not want to risk having the balloon stay aloft long enough to float across the country.) In fact, the US has already done high altitude nuclear tests using balloon-launched bombs. The problem when discussing the EMP threat is that it sounds too much like science fiction. People ignore the threat, thinking it is only as real as the Star Wars Death Star. Take, for example, NBC's new TV show "Revolution." The "EMP" in Revolution isn't a real EMP.... it is fictional. Revolution's "EMP" shuts off all power *worldwide* and seems to *block* power completely, unless you have a secret device. That's fictional, not real. A real EMP would knock out the power grid in areas under the blast, but would not block electricity. We've created a YouTube video that compares Revolution's EMP vs. the real threat. It shows photos of the power grid equipment that could be destroyed by a real EMP. (The video is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWd93u-Xi8Y). I hope you'll watch it. It will let you respond with facts and specifics when someone tells you that this is all made up. It offers specifics that will let you evaluate the threat from an EE perspective. We also have an EMP simulator on our site, EMPCover.com. EE folks will be interested in seeing the energy pattern, which is not uniform. It is much easier to understand if you look at the graphics.

SylvieBarak
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
SylvieBarak   10/16/2012 4:42:12 PM
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Wow, thanks for all that additional info EMPCover, that adds a lot and gives our readers much to chew over. I think it is an issue that needs to be brought to the fore of public consciousness, and that governments should be taking measures to protect against it, since it is a known and credible threat.

Rchandta1
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Rchandta1   10/16/2012 6:46:04 PM
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It looks like we need to cover vital installations and favorite goodies with metal sheets.

Bert22306
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Bert22306   10/16/2012 8:26:24 PM
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"So here’s a thought; instead of spending billions making and stockpiling weaponry, why do governments not spend a fraction of that amount to defensively protect their most important resource –electricity—from disaster?" Because it's not an either/or matter? If you had perfect EMP protection and nothing else, would that make you any safer? Actually, one good way to protect against EMP could be to use old-fashioned tube electronics, at least for your backup, mostly manual controls. But also devices that can shunt very high voltages for short periods of time in the power supply of electronic devices, such as metal oxide varistors (MOV). http://www.eeel.nist.gov/817/pubs/spd-anthology/files/MOV%20announce%20BW.pdf DoD specs usually do require protection against high voltage pulses, although I'm not sure whether these specs are always adequate for EMP protection.

Battar
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Battar   10/17/2012 3:29:24 PM
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Any US enemey (I can think of some) with the capability of creating an EMP attack using a nuclear weapon is far more likely to import the nuclear device in a crate marked "spare parts for tractors" and detonate it at ground level. Why knock out an American citizens' iPad when you can knock out the citizen at the same time? It's not communist USSR you are up against, you know.

TanjB
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
TanjB   10/17/2012 5:37:35 PM
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The last time I looked at this all the studies were done in the era of short wave radio. The generation mechanism, as EMPcover cites, is based on a broad ionospheric phenomenon which is ideal for coupling to the power grid but does not seem like it can generate dangerous modes at frequencies our portable electronics uses. Right? Most devices with stubby antennas, centimeter scale frequency bands, and packages designed (for other reasons) to shield the circuits and with anti-static shunts on the pins, seems like most of our mobile devices would survive. And all long lines are optical. We might be able to harden enough of the supporting towers so at least the information networks limp along. Of course, wiping out the power grid remains a major problem. How fast that comes up depends on whether we simply trip circuit breakers or actually destroy equipment. EMP events from major solar flares have done that too, it does not need to be man-made. Indeed a solar event of the scale of the largest known (in the 1800s, it damaged telegraph lines at that time) would probably pack far more power and damage than a nuclear pulse.

przemek0
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
przemek0   10/19/2012 3:14:45 PM
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The EMP electric field is often specified as 30kV/m for times measured in seconds. This means that a typical USB port will see 300 Volts applied between GND and Vcc, because they are about 10mm apart. Will it survive this potential?

Etmax
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
Etmax   10/19/2012 12:19:11 AM
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In the end, the mere fact that a solar event can do the same and is so much more likely suggests something should be done about it.

ccalvin
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
ccalvin   10/19/2012 11:49:22 PM
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Be sure to read Frederick Brown's "The Waveries". "'Be Prepared' is the Boy Scout's Marching Song".

DigitalRacer
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
DigitalRacer   10/19/2012 11:59:06 PM
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The book "One Second After" will shock you like an EMP. Highly recommend it. http://www.amazon.com/One-Second-After-William-Forstchen/dp/0765317583

WKetel
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re: How to cripple a country: Electromagnetic pulse attacks
WKetel   10/27/2012 10:21:10 PM
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So just exactly what is the suggested defense mechanism? And, for that matter, just what is the anticipated failure mechanism? It is already given that we have defense against lightning strikes, which happen all of the time. So how about some description of the exact actions of this menace. OR, is it some "Phantom Menace" that we must defend against, similar to that Y2K event that took out all of our computerized every-things. OR perhaps it didn't perform quite as advertised.

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