February 26, 2024

Chinese scientists build powerful microwave weapon that can fire from a moving truck, using Stirling engine to cool the technology

This is the world’s first openly reported HPM weapon based on Stirling engine technology.

The intensity of its continuous, steady-state magnetic field reaches 68,000 times that of the Earth’s magnetic field, or close to half the intensity of the magnetic field that can be generated by Earth. Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe.

Microwave weapons without a huge energy cost

O weapon systemwhich easily fits on a truck, presents a significant reduction in energy consumption to generate a strong magnetic field compared to existing technologies.

According to the project team’s preliminary tests, it consumes just one-fifth of the energy required by current methods and can operate continuously for four hours without attenuation.

Its operation also remains unaffected by severe vibrations, even when the truck moves at high speed on the highway, making it much more difficult to locate enemies.

The weapon was developed by the Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology in Xi’an and the Institute of Electrical Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

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Currently, HPM weapons powered by strong magnetic fields “suffer from the disadvantages of enormous power consumption and large size,” wrote the project team, led by electronic engineering scientist Xu Ce, in a paper published last month in the journal Chinese academic High Power Laser. and particle beams.

The development of compact, low-energy superconducting magnetic systems will play an important role in the large-scale production and use of such weapons, Xu and his collaborators added.

The secret of the Stirling engine

The Stirling engine plays a key role in this weapons system. It can function as a refrigerator, quickly removing heat from a location.

As the engine works on the principle of gas expansion due to heat, it requires very few moving parts and can be very small, with some models even being used in satellites and missiles.

However, the Stirling engine has a disadvantage: its cooling limit can only reach 40 degrees above absolute zero (minus 273.15 Celsius or minus 459.67 Fahrenheit), but the low-temperature superconductors used to generate magnetic fields strong must operate within a range of four degrees above. absolute zero.

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Superconducting magnets use powerful electrical currents that flow through zero-resistance coils to generate magnetic fields.

If the magnetic field is not strong enough, the quality of the electron beam produced by the microwave gun will be poor and it will not be able to travel very far.

To solve this problem, Xu’s team used the latest superconducting tape to make the coils.

This second-generation high-temperature superconducting material, known as REBCO, can achieve zero resistance between 40 and 50 degrees above absolute zero. This tape, produced by Shanghai Superconductor Technology, is the highest performing and lowest cost product in the world.

When Xu’s team combined this superconducting material with the Stirling engine, they achieved a temperature of 48 degrees above absolute zero and generated a magnetic field greater than four tesla.

At the same time, “overall energy consumption has been reduced by 80% compared to traditional technology,” they wrote in the document.

How US sanctions led to the creation of the weapon

Users of second-generation high-temperature superconductors in China relied heavily on foreign imports. In 2017, the annual production capacity of this tape in China was only a few tens of kilometers, and the quality of Chinese materials was insignificant compared to that of the West, especially the United States.

In an attempt to impede China’s high-tech progress, the US government in 2018 banned Western companies from exporting REBCO and other cutting-edge superconducting materials to China.

This prohibition stimulated a wave in demand by Chinese suppliers, including Shanghai Superconductor. In less than two years, Shanghai Superconductor alone surpassed an annual production capacity of 400 km of tape.

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As revenue increased, the company increased investment in research and development and broke world records for product performance.

These superconducting materials have now reached many scientific research facilities or infrastructures across China, such as large-scale superconducting transmission lines, high-speed railways and devices capable of generating the most powerful magnetic fields on the planet.

Even some national laboratories and commercial fusion companies in the US have abandoned domestic suppliers in favor of new superconducting wire from China.

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When will China’s microwave weapon enter battle?

Xu’s team did not disclose in the newspaper when this new technology would be ready for the battlefield.

They said that during testing, certain issues arose that required further refinement, including cooling power falling short of initial design goals and a notable drop in system stability after four hours of continuous operation.

“Although it meets the basic requirements, there is still room for improvement in the overall system and it is possible to achieve greater miniaturization within the current structure,” they wrote.

Shanghai Superconductor aims to significantly increase its production capacity to 2,000 km per year by the end of 2024 and further reduce the price of superconducting tape.

These emerging technologies and industrial capabilities have the potential not only to elevate the performance of China’s electronic warfare weapons, but also to accelerate the construction of essential future infrastructure, such as high speed maglev trains, rail gunsfusion reactors, quantum computers and a planned collider four times larger than the LHC.

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