Enhanced with the use of high-temperature superconductors, extremely high current levels circulate in the stators, or outer rings, located along the vacuum tube. This creates ultra-high magnetic fields that violently pull the magnetic armature (in our case the carrier sleeve and its delivery cylinder) forward. Of course, as it really is just a big solenoid, it would normally pull back after the armature reaches the center point of each stator.
Our patent pending quench motor design turns off or quenches as the launch package approaches the center. Importantly, it is a non-contact design, with a central carrier sleeve (acting as the armature) supported magnetically. All the quench launcher’s coils are powered up the entire length of the launch tube prior to launch and are therefore both the drive mechanism and energy storage device.
The devil lies in the dynamic details of the rapidly changing fields as the carrier sleeve accelerates forward, and of course, in the performance of quench switching.
The simple diagram below describes the general drive field layout. As the carrier sleeve (armature) moves forward in the launcher the currents in both the launcher (stator) coils and the armature coils are changed by magnetic interaction with each other.
The core challenge is to apply a very large amount of power to a large mass and drive it to ultra-high velocities in short distances. (Even ten miles being short.) If you do so in a series of short pushes or pulls, as with all electric motors, some method must be found to switch on or off the enormous
current quickly, accurately, and repeatedly.
The quench launcher is the approach that is regarded as the most feasible non-contact high energy mass driver by the leading experts in the field.
The rail gun is the simplest of all the designs, it is a projectile (armature) located between two rails. As power flows from one rail, through the projectile, into the other rail, a force, known as the Lorentz Force, pushes the projectile forward.
Critically, the rails and the projectile need to be in physical contact for the system to work. And the system is inherently low in efficiency. The energy that does not become motion, becomes heat. At high power levels and high speeds, the arcing, plasma, and wear create limits on the number of times such a launcher can be used without needing to be rebuilt. Further, the detritus from the rail projectile interaction causes a “restrike” or new conductive path between the rails behind the armature robbing power and limiting higher velocities.
It was originally selected because it does not require the switching problem to be resolved. Some still hope a way may be found to somehow trap the resulting high pressure plasma between the rails and armature making the electrical connection without direct contact. Still others think the efficiency problem possibly could be mitigated by using the electrical current moving through the projectile (armature) to power a rocket motor.
After review, the DoD quietly shuttered their research effort into high power and high-speed rail guns as the issues with robustness at high power levels and high speeds do not appear to be resolvable.
This is a wonderful technology and the basis of most electric motors today.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to switch very high current levels required at very high frequencies necessary to reach high velocities.
In a general way, this is known as “the switching problem” and is common to all the non-contact methods.
A series of coils, if energized at just the right time, could push a launch package forward, each giving another boost to higher and higher velocities. To begin with, it is difficult from a materials science perspective to violently push a long and small diameter object without risk of collapse. (Pulling is
better.) Also, power needs to be stored so that it can quickly dump into each coil exactly when needed. Batteries do not release power quickly enough, but many hundreds of giant capacitors or ultra-capacitors could suffice.
However, as with the Induction or Traveling Wave Launcher, the switching problem is still an insurmountable problem. It is not considered possible to release (switch) extremely high electrical energy levels with the speed and precision required to power each coil.