Instructables

How to make a RAILGUN!

Warning: if you screw up with this you could electricute yourself.
 
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Step 1: Materials

For this you will need;

4 or 5 Disposable flash cameras (I went to a camera store and asked them for some and they took a big box with about a hundred in it, they sold them to me at ten cents a camera, I only got ten)
aluminum foil
plexiglass
wire
small switch
big switch
aluminum or steel rails
6 nuts and bolts
wire hanger

tools;

screwdriver
soldering iron
duct tape
wire strippers
wire cutters

Step 3: The circuit

solder the small switch to the two wires you made in the last step
solder the extra capacitors onto the current on (remember to keep the positive and negative sides together)
solder two long wires to the capacitors
solder the big switch onto the positive wire

Step 4: The rails

make two aluminum or steel rails about 1/2in by 5in (make sure one long side of each rail is perfectly straight)
cut two pices of plexiglass about 1.5in by 4.5in
make a small gap between the rails that is perfectly straight (I used a wire hanger as a divider)
sandwitch it beween the two pieces of plexiglass and clamp it
drill six holes for the bolts
put the bolts in and screw the nuts on tight

Step 5: Set it up

clip the positive wire on to the right rail and the negative wire on to the left rail with alligator clips
ball up a small piece of aluminum foil and jam it into the middle of the rails
put a battery into the battery thing

Step 6: Fire!

press the small button to charge up the capacitor bank
when the led blinks you can press the big button and fire it
after you're done use a srewdriver to trigger the capacitors a few times before touching it
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Nilpmet2 months ago

You can just go to walgreens and ask for used disposable cameras and you can pretty much get as many as you want for free!

jclaxon11 year ago
could you put 4 rails in it. like an x pattern, and just double the amount of capacitors and use two batteries
Why would you want to do that?
meet dhvani4 months ago
gamelord721 year ago
i cant understand the working of this model....any ?/
my_Fish1 year ago
What kind of battery?
tomgrayb171 year ago
okay so what is the main power source? is there a battery hidden soewhere that we cannot see? where are the terminals coming from? do they come straight from the capaciters or do they come from the leads left over from the flash bulb?
Irmo3061 year ago
what saftey considerations should be taken before starting this project?
jj.inc3 years ago
So you don't need anything to jump start you projectile, I know larger ones use compressed air or springs to avoid welding the projectile to the rails. Also does yours throw cool sparks and stuff, maybe even plasma?
cex jj.inc2 years ago
uhm... Yeah, for a railgun to have enough force to create plasma, it would need several megajoules of energy (if you saw the railgun from DARPA or the US Navy, that one shot took so much energy that it could've been used to power a city for a year).

To release sparks, a railgun doesn't have to be THAT powerful, but it still requires a fairly large amount of energy. In short, THIS railgun can't be used to kill people or do any heavy damage.
evilmadcow cex1 year ago
not really.
this one throws plasma with a kilojoule.
https://sites.google.com/site/futureexperimentalsystems/emla-iii-p
jj.inc cex2 years ago
the biggest railgun (navy) was 33 megajoules or 30000000 joules, or a little over 12 horsepower, I see what you mean, but using a 12 hp engine to charge batteries for one hour couldn't power my house for a year.
swagner4 jj.inc2 years ago
Yeah, thats just wrong. Joules are a unit of energy. Horsepower is a measure of power.
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
but power over time is energy right.
I just found all of this information,
Watt x Time = Joules This is 8948 time 3600 secconds = 32,212,800 joules which is a pretty good conversion for the one minute I put in.
Power x Time = Work (energy)

Joules/distance = Newtons
Work/distance = Force

So you can convert power to energy, its just a little more complicated than most conversions.
swagner4 jj.inc2 years ago
Look, you cant just assume time. And the first guy was wrong as a city uses about 2 Gigawatts each year.

But charging and equations are not linear which you are assuming. By your logic you can convert Joules into cubic meters
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
No, I am saying 33 gigajoules is equivalent to 12hp over 1hour. Which it is. I just converted the hp to watts, which is perfectly fine, then I plugged in the proper time which is in secconds, one hour = 3600 secconds. 12hp is very roughly rounded, and the concluded answer was extremely comparable. If I directly converted 12hp over to electrical watts with no loss of energy I would still only get roughly 9kw which would be enough energy if stored to run my house which consumes 3kwh for roughly 3 hours. Its a bunch of math, but it is well reasoned. I know it is difficult to understand converting between these to things.

Joules are a measure of energy (energy is defined as the ability to do work)
Work is power * time and is measured as an SI unit of joules
Power is the rate at which work is performed or energy is converted
Time is, well you know what time is

By looking closely at these properties you can conclude that power over time is work or hp over one hour is joules

When I use the word over I don't refer to a fraction or division problem I refer to something occurring over a period of time.
06sandj jj.inc2 years ago
The problem with this calculation is that the railgun mentioned discharged its energy over a fraction of a second. Your calculation provides a power of around 9000W: in reality, it would be more like 3300000000W (almost 4.5million horsepower), based on a guesstimation of a 0.01s discharge time.
jj.inc 06sandj2 years ago
Could you please explain more thoroughly. Time plays no role in these calculations. If something is 33 gigajoules, it is 33 gigajoules for a second, and 33 gigajoules for a day. It is just 33 gigajoules.

Ha ha, I was just doing some math and you are just a failure. 33 gigajoules is 3,000,000,000 joules. That number is one 0 short of your number (typo probably). Also sure you may get 4.5 million hp (DON'T QUOTE ME I AM USING YOUR DATA AND IT IS TOO LATE AT NIGHT FOR ME TO CHECK IT), but you only get 4.5 million hp for 0.01 seconds. If you calculate that out which I can't think of how to do at this time you will only have a few horsepower over the course of a short time.

-to everyone other than 06sandj Please disregard this post as the information is useless and just a poorly compile explanation of the massive fail seen above.
06sandj jj.inc2 years ago
Yes, the energy is the same, no matter the amount of time; however, you were quoting power, which does include time. The 4.5million hp came from google calculator (3300000000 watts in horsepower) - I'm not exactly a units conversion wizard myself :P I get your point, and it's true what you're saying about powering a city for a year - I was just attempting to point out that you were referring to the power of this particular railgun as 12hp. This may have just been unclear writing or me not understanding your comment particularly well. On the whole, we should probably forget all about this conversation, agree that railguns are pretty awesome, and continue with life :)
jj.inc 06sandj2 years ago
oh, no, I wasn't saying the railgun had 12 hp, but the idea that it produces 4.5 million for 0.01 seconds is kinda cool
06sandj jj.inc2 years ago
All cleared up then :) And yes, it is :P Imagine the recoil on that thing - slight problem to firing it from a ship!
ok im not very experienced with this subject, but to my understanding recoil is caused by the expanding gasses from the explosion of gunpowder (or whatever other explosive propelent you could use). so as long as you only used magnetic fields to eccelerate your projectile, and made shure to ventilate the rails, or barrel used to house your projectile, the only recoil you should experience should only be (not shure exactly how to say this, but hopefully this will work) the guns movement related to the inertia of the projectile which would keep it resting. if any of that is wrong plaese correct me.
Every action has an equal but opposite reaction (one of them newton laws). When the magnetic field pushes the projectile the projectile pushes back just as hard. Now on a small railgun you won't notice it because the projectiles are usually very small and not going very fast, but the navy gun shoots a very heavy projectile at extreme unimaginable speed, this results in a huge amount of opposite force.
yeah i know about newtons third law but (and again im not very experienced with this) wouldent the force of the "opppsite force" be distributed more or less evenly into the gun (kinda like if a baseball hits a barrel of water, the barrel doesent go flying at the same speed the baseball was traveling) so if a railgun which accelerates a 40 lb projectile to 5,500 mph, which i roughly calculated to require about 54.5 million joules (or 1.36 million joules per pound), was mounted in a platform weighing 5,000 pounds it would only have a recoil of around 272 joules (around twice the recoil of a barret .50) which i think a 16 million pound ship could easily take. now im shure i made some mistake somewere in there so please correct me
I'm not to great with the numbers either, but I think you are probably right, it shouldn't do too much to move the ship, but it would still be 5000 pounds pushing back at 272 joules, which I am sure you would feel. Being anywhere near the thing could be really dangerous I imagine. I wounder what the electromagnetic field around it looks like.
yeah the biggest problem i could imagine is the cannon going off and taking anything magnetic that isnt tied down (and possibly part of the ship) with it. lol i can see the headlines now "navy sends railgun superweapon into battle, oblitorates enemy ship...and sinks own ship in the process"
agreed.
seeing where they got the energy and how big the power source is would also be funny.
When you are talking work done by electricity being converted into a working medium, like the magnetic field, strength is a product of it being divided by time. So 1 hour of charging with a 12hp motor will not equate into the aforementioned joules of force. This is why it does NOT require an entire nuclear power facility to reach the fire rate that the weaponized version is projected to reach. You have to take a fairly strong power source, like a compulsator or bank of capacitors, and discharge the stored energy at an extremely rapid pace, far faster than a hundredth of a second. This is why it's so hard, pulsed power sources able to reach the required pulse lengths are extremely crude, inefficient, and bulky. YES, you can make it work on paper, but that's not how it turns out in reality.
crob09 06sandj1 year ago
Wrong.
The energy is being stored then released, hence the capacitors. There is always some energy loss but not that much.

Think of your car engine, the energy loss is caused from heat, vibration, friction, noise, just to name a few things, all can be measured and combined they total the energy used to run it.
Hydrogen has an exothermic reaction of about 286000 joules per mol, that means the energy released when hydrogen combines with Oxygen is 286,000 Watts, gas is probably pretty close to that too, but you don't see that power at your wheels.

In this situation we have less energy loss, no vibration or noise until you release the energy stored.

Robert Goddard: "For every action there is an opposit and equal reaction"
jj.inc 06sandj2 years ago
Oh, dude, I am so sorry. I have no idea where giga came from, it should have been mega the whole way through, which would drastically bring down your power rating. Sorry I failed as bad as you.

-Face Palm-
You can,

Joules/Newtons = Distance
Work/distance = Force

All you need is an Axiom, math does not lie, equations are linear; What isn't linear would be how the rules are applied.

Newtons third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Einsteins theory of relativity: energy cannot be destroyed or created only transfomed
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
I did it, I converted joules to liters of gasoline, one cubic meter equals 1000l so yea I will do that too. So because one liter of gasoline contains about 35 MJ I will just say that we have 35 MJ. That is equivalent too 0.001 cubic meters, hooray. I hate ruining peoples day.
swagner4 jj.inc2 years ago
Wow i cant believe i fell for a troll. Kudos
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
BTW that wasn't off-topic, and I am not a troll.
swagner4 jj.inc2 years ago
Look, I'm a double major in physics and chemical engineering and I am telling you that while I understand why you are thinking what your thinking, it is incorrect.

You are not converting. You are doing calculations. A conversion changes things that are equivalent. You can only change Joules into other energy units.

Further, you are ignoring inefficency, heat transfer, momentum and impulse, how magnetic fields work, charging and discharging of capacitors and other things.

Also, the electricity that is used is in watt hours when calculated.

That is what is what is wrong with what you are doing.
1 watt is equal to 1 joule, "jj.inc" is correct.

All you need is an Axiom and you can convert anything you like.

For example:
Under this situation the Axiom is a Joule, and we know that 1 joule = 1 watt. We also know that Wattage is PxA.
So I can have a power supply rated at 2V .5A that = 1Watt or a supply with a power rating of .5V and 2A = 1Watt.

I think our education system is in trouble when a person with a Physics and Mechanical engineering degree thinks that Power and Energy are different.
Maybe "jj.inc" is wrong about other things but he isn't wrong about that.

Einsteins theory or relativity: Energy cannot be created nor destroyed only transformed.

Don't tell me you beleive in overunity?
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
Heyo, I was just looking through and I figure I would see if you had my final results yet Mr. Braniac. If you realized I was right you should at least admit it, and if you know what I did wrong please explain so the world can become a better place. After glancing through my very first comment I see what you caught me on, but I subtley place the time into the factor in the last half of my comment. Just ignore this: "he biggest railgun (navy) was 33 megajoules or 30000000 joules, or a little over 12 horsepower" and read this: but using a 12 hp engine to charge batteries for ONE HOUR couldn't power my house for a year.
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
You could have just told me I was using the wrong word to explain what I was doing. Its really not that big of a deal. Yea, I did ignore all of that intentionally to say that in absolute best conditions with no energy loss, it still only provided a certain amount of energy. I don't see where I messed up this whole watt hours thing either. I provided time for every "calculation" I did, it doesn't have to be watt hours. I had 33 MJ I calculated that out to watts over a period of time. That is all I did, and that is all I needed to do. Do you understand this?
jj.inc swagner42 years ago
I am sorry, I just don't like it when someone says no your wrong, I just don't have any real numbers or facts to back it up so I will just muble around and insult you.
The joules are calculated as
(voltage^2*capacitance)/time=joules when you are referring to a railgun. Joules of energy is what is important rather than the work for a railgun. And the proper conversion for figuring the force delivered by the projectile is actually mass times acceleration. Astoundingly this works out in the physical world because, like in a rifle, once the projectile leaves the force acting upon it, in this case the magnetic field is the accelerating force, the projectile is immediately in deceleration unless it is shot along a parabolic path, in which case it could possible experience some acceleration once it passes its apex due to acceleration induced by gravity IF it has decelerated below it's terminal velocity.

And horsepower is how long it takes a team of horses (later revised to a force) to drag a 200lb object over a given distance, so it literally has no application in a railgun. Google is NOT reliable for conversions.
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