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Not really sure where to ask this question. I was watching an episode of a TV show involving a gas generator and it got me wondering whether electricity could still be generated by a gas generator after an EMP. If the engine of the generator is powered solely by gasoline, will it still work after an electromagnetic pulse?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is everything that you will power also protected from the EMP? \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Pruitt Aug 14 '12 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Starfish Prime (I think it was) took out Hawaii Street lights at about 900 miles away. That was 1.4 MT. Depends on whether you are playing with theatre tactical or big boys toys. With tactical, as a general rule, if the EMP takes out your generator you have a reasonably large chance of being blind and/or burned already, probably already dead from radiation poisoning, but your body doesn't know it yet, and the overpressure wave will be along to finish you off any moment now. Yes - SFP : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfish_Prime \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jan 18 '13 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wikipedia says "Starfish Prime caused an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which was far larger than expected, so much larger that it drove much of the instrumentation off scale, causing great difficulty in getting accurate measurements. The Starfish Prime electromagnetic pulse also made those effects known to the public by causing electrical damage in Hawaii, about 1,445 kilometres (898 mi) away from the detonation point, knocking out about 300 streetlights, setting off numerous burglar alarms and damaging a telephone company microwave link. ..." \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jan 18 '13 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ The EMP damage to the microwave link shut down telephone calls from Kauai to the other Hawaiian islands.[5] _______________________________________________________________________________ I recall that we had very pretty sunsets for many days afterwards. That was in New Zealand ! \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jan 18 '13 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ A gas engine could lose its solid state ignition. \$\endgroup\$ – Optionparty Apr 7 '18 at 21:26
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Some will, some won't.

Most self respecting engines have electronic motor management these days, to regulate output voltage and frequency. Often you see really decent machines built into a sea container, extremely silent and the only way to tell that a generator is in them is because you're all of a sudden walking through a beam of hot air. These containers work as a Faraday cage, which in turn will probably make them insusceptible again.

The cheap and tiny ones are often consumer stuff, they can't afford electronic management and are unstable in both voltage and frequency aswell as depending on load characteristic.

On the other hand ... it all depends on the energy contained in the EMP ... I guess you can never be really sure. Don't know if EMP is viable to melt generator windings ...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would go so far as to say that a sufficiently powerful EMP could cause internal arcing in any generator/transformer windings that could compromise the very thin insulation used there. How much power it would take to completely fubarize one I do not know. \$\endgroup\$ – David Wilkins Apr 7 '14 at 19:43

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