A Tabletop Demonstration Railgun
Building a railgun is not as simple as it sounds. There are several problems associated with
physically building a working railgun. First, a large enough current pulse must be applied to
produce a reasonable amount of force. This large current tends to damage the projectile and the
rails. This current also produces large forces in the wires carrying it (due to the same
electromagnetic forces pushing the projectile), pushing the wires apart with great enough force
to bend, break, or launch them.
Here is a picture of one of the conductors we used to connect the
capacitors in parallel. This previously flat copper strip was bent by the
Here is the crimp lug on the end of one of the wires carrying the
current from the capacitor bank to the rails. It was stretched out by the
The force on the conductors connecting the capacitors together and the cap bank to the
rails was one important consideration that we didn't allow for. Large stress was placed on the
terminals of the capacitors, damaging some of them. A better design would allow for these
stresses and not put sideways force on the cap terminals.