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Plasma-powered cannon


For a gun which fires plasma and not a solid projectile, see plasma rifle or raygun.

A plasma cannon (also called an electricothermal accelerator) is an experimental projectile weapon, which accelerates its projectile, by producing a positive pressure, which expels the projectile from a pipe closed at one end by a plasma discharge and the associated thermal expansion of air. A plasma cannon can thus be called a type of firearm, which uses a plasma discharge instead of a chemical propellant (e.g. black powder or nitrocellulose).

To make a plasma discharge, electronics are used, which consists of a high current Tesla generator and a large condenser. Both are attached in series to the electrode system in the cannon's barrel. The condenser is loaded with as high a tension as possible. However, a militarily useful firepower is achieved with only several kilojoules. The Tesla generator is switched on briefly. The gap between the electrodes ionizes, i.e. makes it conducting. The condenser can unload itself now over it. Air is very strongly heated and becomes so-called plasma (ionized gas). Associated volumetric expansion propels the projectile outside

Pro and cons

The advantage of a plasma cannon is that it needs only electricity as energy source. If enough current is available, practically anything that fits in the cannon can be used as a projectile. With high energies soft articles can become deadly projectiles.

A clear disadvantage of the plasma cannon is its weight. Even a small plasma cannon with only the firepower of an airgun weighs about 20 kg (without current supply). A foot soldier thus could not carry a plasma cannon powerful enough to be useful. It would have to be mounted stationarily or on a vehicle.


The first plasma cannon was probably built in the 80's with the US-American military project Strategic Defense Initiative started by Ronald Reagan. It was going to be used as a weapon in space, because black powder and/or nitrocellulose could not easily be taken to there, but electric current can be made available by solar cells. The idea of the plasma cannon is probably older, but at that time there were no condensers with the necessary capacities.


Many fictional weapons described as "plasma cannons" fire only plasma and not a solid projectile: see plasma rifle, raygun. Such weapons occur in the videogames Halo, Descent, Doom, Quake series, and OGame, and in the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000.


  • Günter Wahl: Blitz und Donner selbst erzeugt (in German)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Plasma-powered_cannon". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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