Magnetic components — and electromagnetism as a whole — play a key role in many emerging technologies, including those critical to the aerospace, defense, and communications industries.
Electromagnetism has been used in the travel industry, particularly for trains like the famous Bullet Train in Japan.
Now, the Office of High Energy and Nuclear Physics of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is teaming up with NASA to develop a propellant-free electromagnetic engine.
Electromagnetic propulsion research is also underway for small-scale satellite and spacecraft adjustment, advanced weaponry such as rail guns, submarine and ship propulsion, and more.
Magnetics and Propulsion
In the summer of 2014, NASA’s Eagleworks presented findings from studies on electromagnetic propulsion drives, or EM Drives, conducted at the Johnson Space Center.
The findings showed that EM Drives generated thrust that worked in a vacuum, opening the door to easier, less energy-expensive space travel.
While satellites and space stations are the first structures expected to be equipped with EM Drives, they could potentially revolutionize interplanetary travel in subsequent phases of development.
Magnetics also play a major role in another emerging propulsion technology — plasma propulsion. Unlike EM Drives, plasma drives would require a propellant: a noble gas, such as xenon, with low ionization potential and high atomic weight.
After the gas comes into contact with high-energy electrons, generated by a number of magnetic coils, it ionizes and is accelerated by the electromagnetic field, which generates thrust.
The defense industry has been researching and developing electromagnetics for weaponry for as long as the aerospace industry has been investigating its propulsive abilities.
One of the industry’s most impressive innovations is the railgun.
Though the first proto-railgun was designed in 1918, none of the test models have ever been put into widespread use — until now. A modern railgun prototype is expected to be put into limited testing service by the United States Navy later this year.
To power the railgun, two metallic rails — each with a current running in the opposite direction — generate an electromagnetic field which, in turn, produces a Lorentz Force.
This force propels the projectile. In the case of the Navy, their model uses a projectile that weighs 23 pounds, has a range of 100 miles, and can reach speeds of as much as 1.5 miles per second.
Another military use of electromagnetism is as an electromagnetic pulse weapon; the United States Air Force recently revealed that it had already implemented the technology in an operational system for limited use.
The system, called the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) — is capable of knocking out the electronic infrastructure of locations with pinpoint accuracy.
The same advanced electromagnetics systems that are being developed for use in satellites will benefit companies in the communications industries, as well.
Today, the vast majority of communications signals — including long range radio, cellular, and data signals — are relayed via satellite.
Because the use of EM and plasma drives allows for dramatic cost decreases in the launching and maneuvering of satellites, communications and data providers can now afford to launch more satellites, providing larger and more reliable service areas.
Additionally, the reduced (in the case of plasma drives) and eliminated (in the case of EM Drives) need for propellant will extend the useful lifespan of communications satellites, reducing replacement and operational costs.
Magnetic Components from Agile
None of these advancements would be possible without the capabilities of transformers, inductors, and other types of electromagnetic coils.
Virtually all electronics components, highly advanced and electromagnetic components in particular, rely on quality magnetics components to function.
To learn more about the types of transformers required for cutting edge aerospace, communication, and defense applications, download our new eBook, “A Guide to High Frequency Transformers,” for free today.