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Lorentz Force

Charged particles in motion create magnetic fields.

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License: CC BY-NC 3.0

A technician takes readings as a prototype railgun is fired. [Figure1]

Remember how a current through a wire creates a magnetic field? One of the many uses of the Lorentz Force is in a new prototype weapon that launches projectiles much faster than previously possible. This weapon is called a railgun, and unlike other guns, it works off of electricity, not gunpowder. The gun creates a circuit between two parallel rails, a power source, and a projectile. The current in the system creates a strong magnetic field which pushes against the magnetic projectile and propels it forward. The result is an extreme increase in speed making this weapon so interesting and dangerous. A good explanation of the workings of a railgun can be seen in this explanatory video:

Creative Applications:

  1. What are some everyday devices that utilize the Lorentz Force?

  2. What are other designs that could potentially be used to create a gun based on similar principles? (Hint: research coil guns)

  3. What are the advantages, disadvantages, and concerns posed by creating such a weapon?

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  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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