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How to EMP-Proof a Building


This year, the sun will reach solar maximum, a period of peak magnetic activity that occurs approximately once every 11 years. That means more sunspots and more frequent intense solar storms. Here on Earth, these result in beautiful auroral activity, but also geomagnetic storms and the threat of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), which can bring widespread damage to electronic equipment and communications systems.

And the sun isn't the only source of EMPs. Human-made EMP generators mounted on trucks or aircraft can be used as tactical weapons to knock out drones, satellites, and infrastructure. More seriously, a nuclear weapon detonated at a high altitude could, among its more catastrophic effects, generate a wide-ranging EMP blast. IEEE Spectrumspoke with Yilu Liu, who has been researching EMPs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, about the potential effects of the phenomenon on power grids and other electronics.