With the ability to interfere with or damage electronic devices, electromagnetic pulses (EMP) are considered one of the most dangerous threats facing modern electronic systems and infrastructure. Man-made EMPs in particular can be used to deliberately disable power grids and defense and security systems without leaving any indication as to the specific nature or origin of the attack.
Now, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis INT in Euskirchen, Germany have developed a new device capable of detecting the strength, frequency and direction of electromagnetic attacks.
“We identify the type and location of the source of the invisible attack, as well as its duration, as though we had a sixth sense. Those affected by the attack can use this information to mount a rapid and appropriate protective response,” Fraunhofer researcher Michael Jöster said.
The device setup consists of four specialized antennas capable of “detecting all types of electromagnetic sources” placed around the device in need of protection. “A high-frequency module preconditions the signals for measurement and determines when the electromagnetic pulse started and stopped. A computer in a monitoring station connected via an optical conductor then calculates the values for the signal and presents them on a screen.”
Jöster believes the new device could prove invaluable as a relatively inexpensive means of protection as widespread use of electronic components continues to increase.
“Completely shielding individual devices from electromagnetic radiation would certainly be theoretically possible, but much too expensive. Systems are needed that can detect these kinds of attacks. If you know what is attacking, you can also react correctly to it,” he said.