In an era where vehicles are intricately intertwined with vulnerable electronic components, the threat of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) disruptions, capable of rendering them inoperable, looms significantly. The deployment of EMP shields becomes crucial, providing a safeguard against pulses ranging from 200 MHz to 5 GHz. How will the integration of EMP shields revolutionize the durability and reliability of our modern vehicular fleet?
How an EMP shield protects your vehicle involves diverting destructive EMP-induced voltages away from critical electronics, acting as a shunt to redirect excess voltage, functioning as a pressure release valve, and guiding the EMP to the ground, safeguarding electronic components from damage.
This article delves into the complexities of EMP shields, illustrating how they function to safeguard your vehicle from such formidable assaults.
How Does an EMP Shield Detect Incoming EMPs?
On July 8, 1962, a High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) called “Starfish Prime” was conducted 250 miles from the surface of the earth by the United States, Atomic Energy Commission and the Defense Atomic Support Agency. Approximately 900 miles from ground zero on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, it shut off about 300 streetlights, radios blacked out, and it shutoff phone service to other islands.
The actual threat of EMP attacks targeting the American military caused the implementation of precautionary measures to prevent the military from being susceptible to enemy attacks. One such mitigation strategy involved the deployment of a shield capable of detecting an incoming EMP.
Subsequent EMP strategies led to the development of a specialized sensor comprising several key components, including:
- An electro-optical converting circuit
- An active integrator
- A conical antenna
In operation, an EMP shield employs a sensor that uses the conical antenna to detect the presence of an electrical field. When an electric field is present, it triggers a derivative signal from the antenna, which is subsequently encoded by an active integrator.
This encoded signal then prompts the electro-optical converting circuit to enact a shunting process, diverting excess voltage away from the vehicle’s sensitive circuits.
Currently, the EMP shield is recognized globally as a preferred method for protecting against EMP blasts, applicable to both military weaponry and civilian vehicles. This is because of its distinction as the sole protection technology that has undergone military testing.
Test results remain inaccessible to the public because of their classification as confidential information. The insights garnered from these tests are not sharable to the public, as they pertain to a nation’s nuclear capabilities and the potential pulses reproducible by an adversary’s nuclear weaponry.
The military has used these findings to fortify their armaments, providing a plausible reason for maintaining the secrecy of this information. This confidentiality further underscores the credence of the knowledge surrounding the protective capabilities of EMP shields.
What Are the Various EMP Shield Options for Vehicle Owners?
The undeniable potential for Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs) to inflict significant damage on electronic equipment has caused the development of various protective options, ensuring that infrastructure and vehicles can guard against the detrimental effects of EMPs.
Every countermeasure against EMPs involves some type of shielding, which serves to prevent the electronic pulse from infiltrating the electronic device.
Typically, protective shields are constructed from sturdy material, safeguarding the cables, cords, and wires that connect devices to power supplies or networks, since the cables and wires linking a car’s engine act as antennas, facilitating EMPs to directly target the engine.
Designed to shield these vital conduits, an EMP shield indirectly safeguards the engine by barring the EMP from navigating to the crucial operational core and disabling it.
Options for EMP shielding in motor vehicles include:
- Tailor Hardening: Noted for its relative cost-effectiveness, tailored hardening involves the strategic redesign of vulnerable elements and circuits to enhance their robustness using vacuum valves, thereby enabling them to endure higher currents. While this method may offer limited success rates, it has proven efficacy in reducing the susceptibility of chosen elements and circuits.
- Metallic Shielding: This involves using continuous metal pieces to establish a barrier between the electronic device and the EMP. The metallic shielding encapsulates the device, incorporating aluminum foil internally for heat conduction, thermal insulation, and cable liners. The incorporated aluminum foil serves as a reflection loss, meaning energy is reflected away instead of being absorbed, thus providing protection against EMP pulses of approximately 100 MHz, albeit dependent on the foil’s thickness or its skin depth.
- Faraday Cage: Often used as a type of metallic shielding, a Faraday cage, crafted from conductive material, acts as a protective enclosure by negating external electromagnetic fields. Dating back to its inception in 1836, it remains one of the oldest forms of EMP shields.
What Are The Realities Regarding EMP Shields?
First and foremost, no civilian car models or makes are entirely immune to a direct hit E1 pulse EMP attack, at least not within the American auto market. The U.S. Military, on the other hand, makes most of its equipment to survive EMP strikes.
That is not to say that EMP vehicle shields don’t act as surge protectors and dont have the ability to protect your vehicle. They can protect some parts of your vehicle from the E1 or E2 pulse of a nuclear weapon or geomagnetic storm. There are lots of variables involved with these scenarios, including the vehicle’s location and distance.
There is also the Faraday effect. A Faraday cage in itself is a conductive metal container (think metal box) that blocks and distributes electric fields. When electricity or electromagnetic pulse waves is applied to the cage, it distributes the charge and therefore protects anything inside.
Your vehicle can also become a Faraday cage distributing the charge. The electrical charge can travel over the exterior metal of your vehicle and protect you and some components inside.
If your car is directly under a High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) though, forget about it. But intuitively, that is not the entire story.
Contrary to popular belief, even older car models, such as those manufactured before 1950, are not immune to the impacts of an EMP. While car experts often assert that modern cars are more susceptible to EMPs compared to their older counterparts — a statement that holds truth to some extent since vehicles post-1950s integrate a substantial amount of electronics, making them particularly vulnerable to EMPs — the reality remains that no car model can withstand a direct EMP hit.
The silver lining here is that no vehicle will succumb instantaneously upon being hit by an EMP blast. Small electronics inherently possess a higher likelihood of surviving an EMP blast due to their short external cables.
Choosing to purchase an older car is not a foolproof solution; while it may diminish the risk of EMP effects, it alternatively poses a risk of shelling out thousands of dollars in maintenance for a vehicle whose parts might be scarce or out of production.
- Opting for an electric vehicle entails buying a large Faraday cage to encase the entire vehicle, and its charging system, serving as a protective shield against EMP.
- Purchasing an older vehicle causes getting protective backups for all electrical parts and, similarly, acquiring a sufficiently large Faraday cage to house the vehicle.
- Choosing a modern vehicle means keeping all its parts in a Faraday cage.
- Alternatively, one might risk their vehicle, hoping it survives an EMP attack, or perhaps banking on a neighbor’s car to endure, ensuring a ride to work.
- No car model options are foolproof in the event of an EMP blast.
While protective measures like EMP shields, including Faraday cages, offer defense, they’re not infallible and proximity to an EMP or HEMP blast is crucial. Older vehicles might have fewer electronics but also come with maintenance challenges.
Regardless of a vehicle’s age, the best protection involves proactive measures, such as using robust shielding techniques. Yet, absolute security against EMP impacts remains elusive in the current automotive landscape.
- Hemmings: Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?
- Krishi Sanskriti: EMP & Its Protection–An Overview
- URSI: An Active E-field Sensor Based on Laser Diode for EMP Measurement
- Washington State Department of Health: Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)
- Wpmucdn.com: Power Grid Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Disturbances: A Literature Review
- High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) Effects and Protection | WBDG