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It could be argued that we already have biological EMPs in the form of solar flares.

But what I'm looking for is a sort of a half baked idea for a planet the had life forms that produce natural EMPs.

So for the context, barely matters but here it is, a space exploration ship gets marooned on a faraway planet of which they know little. The ship takes a lot of damage so their anti EMP technology is not working for the moment.

Now the surprise comes when they land, more like crash, and after a while most of their electronic are fried.

Now I did not set this to hard science because I'm not sure if it could be done but I'd really appreciate a detailed breakdwon of the proposed life form that produces EMPs.

That life form has to cover most of the planet so it can't be just one animal small or big.

However groups of animals, or birds for example, that naturally produce EMPs would be welcome.

Trees, fungus, special rocks or crystals...etc are all welcome suggestion.

However I just want that to make sense. So what I thought of is that life form on that planet "evolved" to produce EMPs to protect themselves from the original inhabitants. I think this starts to make sense as they can't just start spending energy for no gain. But this is merely and idea and not in any part a limit or a hard must.

Anyway I think some sort of incredibly large animal or life form, maybe a sort of huge sprawling trees that cover kilometers of land, can produce those EMP who need to be enough so that the humans stranded need to stop it before they can start fixing their stuff.

So all I want is periodic or constant EMPs enough to make electronics useless, whatever animal or life form that makes it is completely up to you. Solar flares are not welcome as I think it is too boring.

And as always an explained "No" is as valuable as ever.

So. Is there a solution?

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  • $\begingroup$ your biggest issue with be energy requirements, an EMP of enough power to bother electronics requires a buttload of power, far more than any organism on earth can produce. You may need to handwave energy requirements or seek exotic theoretical power sources. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 10 '20 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ Periodic or constant signals do not qualify as pulses, by definition of pulse. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 10 '20 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ We have them on earth, they're called electric eels. The same biology could be used for other animals. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Oct 10 '20 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ so their anti EMP technology is not working for the moment - Note that for the most part anti-emp is done with shielded lines and faraday cages, which are completely passive, and usually built as part of the casing of whatever it is - an all-metal PC case will act as at least a partial one. You might have better luck having small critters being attracted to tasty electronics/wire signals. $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '20 at 21:12
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No

An EMP is an electromagnetic (EM) field that (in this case) induces a current into wires. This can do three things to harm your electronics. It can be read as a legitimate signal by the computer, masking the real code instructions. It can charge memory, corrupting it. It can burn the wire. The first two are generally harmless. Code is often corrected in processors and a reboot is sufficient to combat this effect if it's worse. The second one is the most dangerous and requires (part of) the electronics to be replaced. This is the one you want ("their their electronic are fried").

To burn a wire, you need one thing. To increase the wattage. The wire has a resistance that will stop a bit of the electrical signal. That means part of the wattage isn't moving on as electricity, but becomes heat. This heat then needs to become high enough to melt the conductive wire, or able to melt the protective layer of it and a neighbouring wire to short circuit.

Using EM to induce current isn't an easy task. The larger the distance, the more difficult it becomes. Lets take a look at the electric eel. It can generate up to 860V and 1 ampere. This might seem a lot, but your average wire to an appliance can take a lot more ampere, which is more impressive. A shock from 230V and 16A from your average EU wall outlet is much more dangerous. Don't get me wrong. An electric eel has the electric potential to severely shock horses to scare them away. But this is on direct contact. If you want it to disrupt a circuit with an EMP, you'll lose energy in both the translation of body energy to EMP and then the translation of EMP to electricity. Then the electricity needs to be high enough that due to the resistance of the wire it heats up enough. It would require a ludicrous amount of EM, which could probably be picked up by the crew themselves as well by the queasy feeling.

I had the same idea as @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica. If you get an event like mating season where literally several ton in biomass of creatures get together and to scare off/hunt/defend themselves they generate a huge magnetic field. Especially on a planet where electro senses like the electric eels are very common, such things might help to disorient of disable predators. Still, the amount of energy required is ludicrous and very unlikely. They probably need to land on a hot spot for it to have the desired effect.

As an alternative, consider shifting of magnetic poles of the planets core. No idea if those can generate EMP and some geologist or astrophysicist might be better to ask, but as its a planet it'll probably be able to create huge amounts of EMP on it's own under certain circumstances.

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SInce you allow "crystals", there is a fairy common natural phenomenon that produces EMP - tiny $H_2O$ crystals produce a lot of static electricity that is then discharged against the ground. Just make it bigger, more frequent etc. on that planet. Or even not, since here on Earth it is usually powerful enough to fry any electronics around, even with induced current alone, no direct hit is necessary.

Your spaceship would be exceptionally vulnerable, since I assume it is 1) tall and 2) has a lot of metal parts.

Alternately, if looking specifically for something biological, let an eel-like (but land dwelling) creature wander into your control room and discharge.

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A possible way to make it biologically produced would be to have some animals with capabilities similar to electric heels use their electric discharge as part of their mating ritual.

When the mating season comes the environment is filled with their synchronized discharges, which summing up also amplify their effects.

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