Project Plan

Roles: All members will be equally involved in testing and measuring phases of the project. Each member of the group will take part in operating and observing the function of the rail accelerator and recording the results of test firings. Jarrett Holtz will be in charge of construction of the rail accelerator, and Austin Rau will oversee physics principles in the construction of the device.

Equipment and Supplies: 

  • Aluminum weld bars
  • Sheet of lucite
  • Nuts and bolts
  • 4 disposable cameras (for the capacitors and circuit board)
  • Heavy wire
  • Two switches (not necessary but ideal)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Graphite
  • Steel shot
  • Recording camera
  • EMF meter

Science/Technology Involved: From a scientific perspective the rail accelerator is a utilization of electromagnetism. Current through a pair of parallel metal rails creates a circuit that is closed by a conductive material placed between the charged rails. Completing the circuit creates a Lorentz force that pushed on both the fixed rails and the object between the rails, essentially turning any conductive magnetic material between the rails into a projectile. Technologically the rail accelerator utilizes circuit boards and a carefully constructed circuit to charge a pulse of electricity to be used to generate the Lorentz force necessary to propel the projectile. That along with the design of the rails completes a projectile launching technology using only electromagnetism as sources of propulsion.

Activity Plan:

  1. Construct the actual rail accelerator physical components (the rails and enclosing) build instructions, secondary instructions
  2. Construct the charging circuit and connections to the rails
  3. Test the rail accelerator’s operation initially for repeatable successful firing (firing tests will be done on the archery field)
  4. Test with different sizes and different materials of objects (aluminum foil, graphite, small steel shot)
  5. Measure the electromagnetic field generated by the rail accelerator and charging circuit
  6. Record video of projectile launches for different projectiles
  7. Determine speed using video analysis software for projectile types
  8. Analyze data

We will be meeting with Carl Bertsche on Monday 02/10/14 to get holes drilled in the rails and lucite with which to build the actual rail mechanism. After we have the actual rails finished it will be a matter of completing the charging circuit. All of which will be completed within the week. After that I foresee that with no complications our data will be taken the following weekend, or the beginning of the next week.

Safety Plan: In the construction process and after firing all capacitors will be completely discharged and all power sources removed to account for electrical safety. There should be no power to the device when not in operation. For firing purposes the firing end of the accelerator will be given a clear space, and people will keep clear of the front of the device. In general precaution will be taken with the device during construction and firing, respecting the potential danger of both electricity and projectiles.

Outcomes/Data Expectations: We expect to see a static electromagnetic force generated for each projectile with the speeds varying based on the mass of the projectile and the material. Based on the heat generated by the large amounts of electricity through the projectiles it is possible that we will see some damage (destruction) of the projectiles such as the aluminum foil. I suspect that the lighter materials will move at faster rates, but we don’t expect exceptional speeds from a rail accelerator of a size this small utilizing such a small power bank.

2 thoughts on “Project Plan

  1. jaholtz Post author

    I updated the plan to include the answers to your questions and to include some additional details. I hope that clears up any questions/issues.

  2. Avatar photoJenny Magnes

    This is a creative effort. Remember that you must have taken your data within a week and a half. Your time plan needs some more details; for example, when is construction to be complete? Where do you anticipate conducting this experiment? By when will data taking be complete? Is the force propelling the projectile magnetic or electromagnetic? How does it work? What measuring device will you use to measure the field? You should include a construction plan of your launcher. It sounds like you need to consider electrical and mechanical safety here. What is your safety plan?

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