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Induction Launchers & EM Rocketry

Induction Launchers (aka Mass Driver)

A Ring Launcher is an inductive launcher. When the coil is energized, it creates a strong magnetic field around it. Since this coil is flat and a non-ferrous ring is placed direcly upon it, this magnetic field creates a huge rush of current in the ring itself. This current turns the ring into a strong magnet of opposing force which repels the ring away from the coil at amazing speed! I’ve been using aluminum rings exclusively as they are great conductors and easy to get – take any broken 3.5″ hard drive apart to get perfect rings for launching!

The pic on the left shows the ring in place, ready to be launched. The ring shown is one I fabricated out of 5/16″ aluminum to the same dimensions as a hard disc platter. The bonus is a heavier ring which is also able to produce a stronger magnetic field. The result is more energy out. There will of course be a point where the weight of the ring is too much and efficiency will start dropping again. On the right is the coil after about 30 shots. It used to be round and not epoxied, but after 1 shot it formed ears!! So I epoxied it and it didn’t change much after that, though you can see the epoxy beginning to break apart.

Preliminary Results

Coil: 14awg magnet wire

Ring – 3.5″ hard disc platter

Weight – 22g

Speed – 57.3288 m/s

Energy – 36.16j

Efficiency – ~2.1%

Ring – 3.5″ 5/16 self cut aluminum disc

Weight – 58g

Speed – 60.68568 m/s

Energy – 106.78j

Efficiency – ~6.2%

This is my ring former. I cut two 3.5″ circles out of plywood. One will be the coil backing and the other is used as a vice. I place a washer the thickness of the wire around the bolt to be the center. I then cover the block that will be part of the coil with double stick tape. Next I lightly clamp it using the nut and bolt and start wrapping the coil. Then I unclamp it. The tape holds the coil in place while I paint it with epoxy. Then I put an index card over the epoxy and reclamp it until it cures. Voila! “Perfect” coil. I didn’t develop this method until after the coil seen above was wrapped…

Results for “perfect” coil:

Coil – 14awg magnet wire

Ring – 3.5″ 5/16 self cut aluminum disc

Velocity – 67.60464 m/s (151mph)

Weight – 58g

Energy In – 1.7kj

Energy Out – 132.54j

Efficiency – 7.7%

The effects of the new coil on a soda can

This is my capacitor bank used for all of my electromagnetic guns. It consists of 8 capacitors. 4 are wired in parallel to form two banks, which are then wired in series, giving 700v. The power output is > 1.7kj. On the left you see a power switch – this powers the transformer in the lower right to produce 700v+. This is fed into the bridge rectifier to the right of the transformer, and then to the resistor seen in the middle of the caps. The resistor prevents high currents during the start of charging.. Finally the “resisted” 700v is fed to the cap bank to gently charge the caps in about 20 seconds. A voltmeter tells me when it’s fully charged, at which time I turn the switch off. When the fire button is pressed, 3 volts from the AAs seen bottom right are fed to the SCR triggers, with a resistor in front of each. The three SCRs are in parallel. When thr SCR gates close, all the power is dumped into the load connected to the terminal block. A large diode seen left of the SCRs is connected so that back EMF from the coils do not damage the SCRs.

March 2006: I upgraded my capacitor bank to double its capacity – now > 3.5kj. It’s simply two of the smaller banks in series. The new coil is a dual layer coil, with each layer wired in parallel.

This is a 1-2-3 of the test results for various wirings of the cap bank, different projectiles, and different coils.

It’s best to match the coil to the projectile than the other way around…so I got some aluminum slugs and made plywood blocks the same diameter. These blocks hold the coil.

First I paint on some poly glue and then I wrap the coil around the block by putting a spacer in the middle and another block on the other side, held together with a bolt. It goes into the vice for good measure while curing.

After the glue sets, a finished coil. Repeat for second layer.

Coil is done, wired and painted. Ready for testing in incremental voltages.

Oops…after successful firing at 1000v (1.8kj in the bank), I figured why not see what it can handle…1200v and the sound of a shotgun later, and the solder has vaporized…That grey and black residue is solder. So at least it has a built in fuse…I’m going to rate this size coil at 1000v max.

I launched my electromagnetic rockets “EMRockets” the other day. The footage shows induction launched rockets at progressively higher voltages…the higher the voltage, the more altitude, but also the more Gs, and therefore the rockets get destroyed. It’s back to the drawing board to build a rocket that can withstand more than one full power launch.

Unfortunately I don’t know how high they’re going…I need an altimeter for accurate measurements, but a little math tells me that the highest launch reached about 47.1 meters…minus resistance of course so it’s a bit less.

The launchpad wire is 14awg magnet wire…same stuff used in all my other CGs and launchers. The only difference is that this coil is only 2.5″ in diameter, instead of 3.5″….don’t know how many turns…I just wrapped it until it was the right diameter as I built the coil for the aluminum slugs I’m using, which are 2.5″ diameter and 3/8″ thick. It is a dual layer coil, though I think I’m going to make a 3 layer one as the current is vaporizing the solder before I can fire the bank at full capacity. My 3.5″ diameter DL coils had each layer in parallel…this smaller one has them in series.

I picked those aluminum slugs only because that’s what I got my hands on…nothing else. Once I got the aluminum slugs, I designed everything else around them. From my other ILs, I did discover that thicker aluminum is definitely better….e.g. hard disk platters are nothing compared to 1/8″ al in terms of efficiency and energy output.

And believe it or not, all those were all launched from a 12v 5ah battery!


24,000j Capacitor Discharge System

In the past I’ve been launching "rockets" via induction pads, and a bunch of other discharge experiments at 3500j of energy…the science, videos and some numbers can be seen throughout this site. Now I’m building a much more massive system of ~24,000j of energy. Induction launchers, coil guns, rail guns, etc etc etc can be scaled way up with this amount of energy. I’ve finally gotten all the main bus bars on the capacitors….this bank will be configured for 4500v @ 2400uf.

I need to score two identical MOTs…I’ll be hooking the primaries in parallel inverted phase, and series the secondaries, giving me the necessary voltage to charge to 4500v.

Next I need a safety discharge, and to build the remote controlled main discharger, which will be mechanical….SCRs of this size would be prohibitively expensive and/or impossible to get.

Finding parts will dictate how fast this project comes together, unfortunately…here’s the bank as it stands right now:

This thing will be remote control and mechanically triggered…I don’t want to be near whatever is hooked to it! I’m thinking giant copper rod, spring loaded, with a release pulled by an RC servo that I trigger via remote control. The giant spring will pull the rod into a giant copper plate to complete the circuit.

The caps are wired this way because it was cleanest, and they are 10 separate banks of 10 in parallel (each string weighs a ton, and I’m not a huge person to lug a massive bank around, so 10 sets are good for me!!). This gives ample flexibility, though with induction large capacitance isn’t very useful since the platter is far away rather quickly and all extra energy is wasted…so I figure more volts, less uF, so it’s a really short, HUGE pulse….I suspect my first few coils might detonate until I figure out how large they must be to absorb this much energy. I’m also thinking coin shrinking might be in my sights!! To give an idea of just how BIG this is…



Jan 02, 2008 Update: I’ve found and ordered two identical 1200w MOTs for charging the bank. I have diodes already, and will construct the charging system soon. I’ve also been asking around about discharge systems for such a huge amount of energy, and have settled on an open-air thyratron, aka triggered spark gap using a high voltage plasma. Essentially, a gap is created and a high voltage lightning bolt is created between the gap thus closing the circuit to discharge the bank. I have the remote control unit already for activating the discharge. It now appears that I have almost all the major components!!!

Jan 20, 2008 Update: The capacitor bank has been completely bussed together for the first time!!! The system, including charger, went “live” yesterday for the first time, charging to 1% of the total energy capacity.

Jan 28, 2008 Update: I’ve built the charger into a self contained unit, with integrated cooling to keep everything operating at peak performance. I’ve also thought up a way to safely discharge the bank without having completed my pulse discharge system – I bleed off each string into a MOT secondary. It discharges slowly and completely this way. I have charged the bank up to 10kj so far in test charging, and discharged it in this manner. With the charger now a self contained unit, I intend to charge the system from a safe distance, in addition to the previously planned remote discharging. Components fail…bad things can happen…think about this for a second:

A defibrillator is the device used by medical personnel to start and stop hearts…the typical unit delivers a maximum pulse of around 300j. To give some perspective, my capactior bank would be equivalent to 80+ defibrillators connected AT ONE TIME. But the end result would be worse than that scenario, as all the energy is delivered in one small area with mine….in other words, this bank is deadly, and utmost safety precautions must be taken at all times!!!

I’m not only worried about accidentally coming into contact with the bank, but the shock wave from a failure/component detonation could also be deadly. With this in mind…I intend to only fully charge this behemoth from a distance!!! This is a HUGE amount of electricity!!!!!!

Apr 21, 2008 Update: I’ve been out of action for a while, as I have just moved. I now have more space and freedom for my experimentation 😀 The discharge system is finally all set up and operational, and additional construction and experiments will resume shortly!!

Jun 27, 2008 Update:The entire system has now been completed….my full size triggered spark gap works like a charm. I have successfully discharged 22kj of energy into pickles, potatoes, soda cans and more – with rather explosive results. I plan to build a 1 foot+ diameter pancake coil with flat transformer wire soon to launch EM Rockets and other large projectiles.

I did destroy my coilgun though…The coilgun was so powerful at 3.8kj that it shot a slug through both sides of a 5-gal pale and almost through sheet metal behind it!!! So I decided to try 5kj…and it detonated.

And this is the new 11″ pancake coil made of 1/4″ wide flat transformer wire. It launched a 3ft x 1ft x 1/8″ thick sheet of aluminum half way to the garage ceiling with only 300j!!!: