The Impact of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) on Critical Infrastructure

Whether caused by man or nature, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) events have the potential to cause permanent disruption and destruction to electrical components and entire systems in most critical infrastructure sectors. An EMP, also known as a transient electromagnetic disturbance (TED), is a short burst of electromagnetic energy that can originate from either natural or artificial sources. It can manifest itself as an electromagnetic field, electric field, magnetic field, or conducted electric current. The interference caused by an EMP can interrupt communications and damage electronic equipment.An EMP, such as that of lightning, can physically damage objects like buildings and aircraft.

To manage the effects of an EMP, a branch of electromagnetic compatibility engineering (EMC) is used. An electromagnetic pulse moves at an incredibly fast speed, which means it will generate a large amount of electricity in any metallic object it passes through. Electromagnetic waves moving through the metal at high speeds cause the electrons in the metal to become excited, resulting in electricity. This is why sometimes the lights go out near a lightning strike.

Electromagnetic shielding prevents electromagnetic waves from affecting sensitive electronic devices, from televisions and microwaves to mobile phones and baby monitors, as well as computer processors essential to today's smart devices. To achieve the pulse frequency characteristics necessary for optimal coupling to the target, wave-forming circuits or microwave generators are added between the pulse source and the antenna.Andrei Sakharov, in the Soviet Union, first conceived in 1951 the concept of a flow compression generator with explosive pumping to generate a non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse. Since then, nations have continued to work on classifying non-nuclear EMPs until similar ideas emerged in other countries. An electromagnetic pulse is a sudden, intense wave of energy that is generated from a single source and propagates rapidly away from the source.

Electromagnetic radiation is made up of pulsing waves of energy that cross space, similar to how water waves cross the ocean. The first recorded damage caused by an EMP occurred with the solar storm of August 1859, or Carrington event.A pulse of electromagnetic energy typically comprises many frequencies, from a very low limit to an upper limit, depending on the source. According to Maxwell's equations, a pulse of electrical energy will always be accompanied by a pulse of magnetic energy. I also found a military report entitled “The Effects of the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) on cardiac pacemakers” which stated that pacemakers were likely to survive.

Developed at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington and created to help fulfill the responsibilities of the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a national effort, these guidelines are intended to help federal, state and local officials and critical infrastructure owners and operators protect essential equipment from electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats.Most electromagnetic pulses have a very sharp leading edge which builds up quickly to their maximum level. However, pulses from controlled switching circuits are usually in the shape of rectangular or square pulses. They usually send a pulse to any electrical connection present in addition to radiating a pulse of energy. Induced pulses have much lower energy than threat pulses so it's more practical to create them but they're less predictable.

Preston Mcnealy
Preston Mcnealy

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