Electromagnetic Pulse Vulnerabilities and Product Design

Electromagnetic Pulse Vulnerabilities

What is an Electromagnetic Pulse?

Electronic products have Electromagnetic Pulse Vulnerabilities that could cripple infrastructure systems across the planet.  It is a serious concern that a number of agencies have reported on at length.   The Critical National Infrastructure Commission report of 2008 is one such example that outlines some dire possibilities.

Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP) can be both natural and man made.  Naturally occurring, these transient electromagnetic disturbances can be caused by lightning strikes, meteor explosion in earth’s atmosphere, or Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) caused by solar flares.  Man made disturbances include High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulses (HEMP) created by a nuclear explosions as high as thirty km above sea level and a variety of smaller weapons designed to disable pinpoint targets.

EMP events have a wide frequency range from DC to 1 GHz that have a duration of several nanoseconds.  This results in electric fields in thousands of Volts that can induce extremely high currents into electrical and electronic systems resulting in damage or complete destruction.  For those events caused by nuclear explosion, a second low frequency current caused by the disruption of the Earths magnetic field can cause major damage to power distribution systems.

Designing for EMP

A number of steps can be taken at the design stage for equipment that is considered safety critical.  These include screening, filtering of all power and I/O leads, and inclusion of voltage limiting components into a circuit.  Once a design has been implemented a variety of test methodologies are available for design evaluation.  While most of these involve military standard developers of products for commercial applications are often not restricted from their usage.  For example MIL-STD-461 RS105 is a standard used for shipboard equipment above and below deck to verify equipment’s ability to withstand transient electromagnetic field events. 

Consideration of inclusion of such testing into a test program should be taken for equipment that is critical to infrastructure requirements.  These types of equipment could include:

  • Electric Power
  • Telecommunications
  • Financial Service Industry Information Systems
  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Infrastucture
  • Transportation Infrastructure
  • Water Infrastructure
  • Food Infrastructure
  • Emergency and Health Services

CVG Strategy

CVG Strategy EMI/EMC consultants can perform a Susceptibility Analysis to identify Electromagnetic Pulse Vulnerabilities and provide design modifications to create products that can endure EMPs.  We can also recommend appropriate test and evaluation methodologies to verify these designs.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

Jamie Hamilton

Jamie Hamilton

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