Boeing is world-renowned for their manufacturing of aircraft and avionics, as well as their research in the defense and aerospace industries. Though, Boeing has now dipped into the science fiction side of research and development. The company has now received a patent for their design that is named, “Method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc.” In other words, Boeing has created a way in which a force field can be developed to protect an object from a nearby explosion – something that has has only been seen in the movie Star Wars.
In the documents filed by Boeing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the futuristic technology is described to be used to protect objects and vessels from damages that are caused by nearby shockwaves after explosions, not to prevent a direct impact from a missile or bullet into a vehicle or building structure. The shockwave attenuation system will be derived a series of sensors that can detect an explosion that generates shockwaves from ablast moving the air outwards from the epicenter of the explosion. The sensors will be able to detect minute changes in air pressure that are uncharacteristic of normal air fluctuations.
An electromagnetic arc reactor, one that is reminiscent of Tony Stark’s creation in the Iron Man series, will receive signals from the outer sensors about an impending shockwave. It will then use a mass of radiation and electricity to ionize the air in a small area, creating a plasma field between the outside of the vessel and the incoming shockwave. The area on the vessel will be protected by electricity that super heats, or ionizes, the air so that incoming particles cannot impregnate the force field.
Boeing’s arc reactor will be encompassed by a triumvirate of electricity, microwave, and laser technologies. The plasma field that is created deflects an incoming shockwave by forming different atmospheric conditions around the area in terms of air density, temperature, and composition. Thus, the atmospheric differences will create a buffer zone between the area on a vessel and the impending shockwave, guiding the blast waves around the structure and leaving it intact, without interference. Boeing stated the path of a shockwave can be blocked using their Star Wars-like technology by creating a second medium in a small area, which would reflect, refract, deflect, and even absorb the energy from the shockwave.
Since ionizing the air around a small area results in creating a thermal plasma, Boeing explained this technology is not ideal for long-term protection, as these temperatures would melt most metals in a short time. Although this Star Wars-esque force field is theoretically feasible, with physicists determining last year that an electromagnetic field can be utilizing to hold a shield in place, there is one problem. They stated when this process occures, it creates a light vacuum. Since a force field will deflect everything, even light, the shielded area will be in total darkness. Thus, leaving anyone inside the area of protection or aircraft totally blind as to what was coming from the outside. Although Boeing’s electromagnetic arc and shockwave attenuation system does not fully capture the technological capabilities shown in Star Wars, it is still a very large leap into the future of defense technology.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Global Panorama – Flickr License