"Novel" receiver to protect electronics against electromagnetic pulse attack

Defense contract kick-starts electromagnetic pulse-tolerant receiver program

Sandia

A Malibu, CA company is developing a new system to protect military communication gear from high-power microwave weapons, nuclear blast generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and the mythic, directed-energy "e-bomb".

One nuclear airburst can unleash the EMP equivalent to 100,000 volts per square centimeter, frying computer, radar and communication equipment within hundreds of miles. It's possible to protect electronic circuitry from EMP with something called a Faraday cage, or covering it up with 1 inch mesh, grounded, copper chicken wire as they've done with FEMA headquarters; problem is-nothing gets out either, which defeats the purpose when it comes to radio transmitters.

HRL Laboratories, LLC landed the government contract to design, test, and develop a "novel" receiver based on an innovative front end meant to protect electronic components from "over as large a fractional bandwidth as feasible".

Known as the Electromagnetic Pulse-tolerant Microwave Receiver Front-end, or EMPiRe, the program aims to produce a microwave receiver capable of surviving and operating in high energy electromagnetic environments, while maintaining high sensitivity, bandwidth and range, according to DARPA, which is funding the three-part, four year effort.

It does this by sensing incoming electrical fields through a high-performance, microwave photonic link and then providing a microwave-modulated optical signal to the shielded receiver, according to HRL.

"This front end will be designed to have wider bandwidth than existing technology and will achieve a much higher concentration of electromagnetic fields," said Dr. James Schaffner, HRL program manager. "The thermal effects of a high-energy attack will be insignificant because our sensor head absorbs negligible radio-frequency power."

This is good news for military commo jocks, but leaves your widescreen and factory installed GPS vulnerable to Goldeneye/Ocean's Eleven style electromagnetic pulse bomb attacks and even sun flares. Waddayawant? Call your congressman.

About the author

    The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.

     

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