Finding ways of powering electric cannons in a compact and lightweight manner has been a common source of interest to me. While looking through some articles and other answers I found out about explosively pumped flux generators which appear to me to be a fairly lightweight way of providing the extreme currents necessary for something like an electric cannon. What I imagine is a small shoulder fired railgun, similar in form to an anti tank launcher, which triggers an EPFCG charge to create a brief but powerful current sufficient to propel a high velocity kinetic penetrator. The gases created by the detonation would be vented through the rear of the chamber to relieve pressure and counteract recoil forces. Given the forces involved I imagine a reasonably compact version would only be designed to survive one shot and then be disposed of.

Would a mechanism like this work in theory and if so, what would be some potential difficulties or nuances of the system?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Using an explosive to generate the electricity necessary for a rail gun is like depending on a diesel generator to charge your electric car. (a) Every time you shift energy types you lose efficiency and (b) what's the point? Just fire the bullet with the explosive. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 18 at 3:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH if you could make a system that used the power of the explosion to drive a small projectile faster than the blast wave of the explosive could propagate, then there's some mileage in the two-stage system. However, the proposed system would probably be terrible for this purpose, given the single short pulsed nature and limited power of the output. A HEAT warhead seems much more useful, under the circumstances. $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime In principle I agree with you - but using one type of energy to produce a second type of energy that could move a projectile faster than the first type of energy alone sounds too much like a perpetual motion machine to me. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 18 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH you can power a particle accelerator with a diesel generator, you know ;-) $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 18:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Now we're getting somewhere. If the EPFG railgun had a specific purpose that only the railgun could efficiently address and an explosively-delivered slug couldn't, then I could buy into this. But I'm having trouble finding such a purpose. Right now it feels like the OP wants a railgun at any cost and he/she's willing to throw common sense out the window to get it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 19 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


From the link you have given, which by the way talks about Explosively Pumped Magnetic Flux Generators:

An EPFCG only ever generates a single pulse as the device is physically destroyed during operation. They require a starting current pulse to operate, usually supplied by capacitors.

Explosively pumped flux compression generators are used to create ultrahigh magnetic fields in physics and materials science research and extremely intense pulses of electric current for pulsed power applications. They are being investigated as power sources for electronic warfare devices known as transient electromagnetic devices that generate an electromagnetic pulse without the costs, side effects, or enormous range of a nuclear electromagnetic pulse device.

I would say that a single use device which incapacitates all the electronic device around it when it's operated is maybe suited for warfare (as it is apparently being researched) but not as infantry weapon. Since the explosion is also not contained within the device, it would also kill the operator.

Additionally, I have my doubts that the inertia and the related time constant of a kinetic penetrator would couple well with the extreme short duration of such a pulse.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .