Detecting the Threat to Electronics from High Power Electromagnetics (HPEM)

Detecting the Threat to Electronics from High Power Electromagnetics (HPEM)

In many areas of society, there are facilities that we cannot do without; they have to be available all the time. Examples are critical infrastructures such as communication networks, hospitals or the power grid. Increasingly, their operation is secured by complex technical equipment and IT systems.

With the current security discussion in mind, one hitherto unfamiliar aspect deserves attention: the deliberate disruption of electronic systems by high power electromagnetic signals. Powerful, compact transmission devices can inconspicuously disrupt equipment, even at a distance of up to 100 meters. Consequences for an entire system can be fatal.


Detection as Part of a Protection Concept

In consequence, efforts are being made to develop a robust receiving and measuring apparatus that can detect the otherwise unnoticed exposure to extreme interference signals and, where possible, measure and record them. Detecting the direction of the threat is also helpful for rapid countermeasures.

In this context, Fraunhofer INT’s Business Unit Electromagnetic Effects and Threats (EME) has been working, in several iterations, on the development of a comprehensive detection system.


Goals for Detector Development

  • Detecting the interference frequency
  • Improving field strength determination and direction detection, based on frequency information
  • Measuring and displaying central pulse parameters
  • Miniaturizing the detection system
  • Developing an accessible user interface

System Concept of a Detector for High Power Electromagnetics (HPEM)

For a system to detect high power microwaves, we developed both hardware and control software.

System Components

  • Spiral antennas for detecting electromagnetic signals with high field strength
  • Attenuators to weaken the signals
  • Processing, digitizing and temporarily storing the signals
  • Determining frequency and key pulse parameters (pulse width, pulse number, etc.)
  • Evaluating the data on a built-in microcomputer
  • Controlling and displaying the data on a web interface developed for the task at INT
  • Installing the entire system in well-shielded housing
  • Incorporating a built-in battery for mobile operation


Technical Properties

  • Frequency range 500 MHz to 6 GHz
  • Field strength measurement from 100 V/m up to several kV/m
  • The system itself is shielded against even higher field strengths
  • Battery operation for up to 8 hours.