Stuff on a Tesla Coil

Back in 2012, I started a YouTube playlist called Stuff on a Tesla Coil in which I... well... put stuff on a Tesla coil. This was briefly after I completed the solid state driver for my 100 kHz coil, and was eager to see how certain objects would be affected by well-controlled amounts of ridiculously high voltage. Some of the following pictures are supplemental to certain videos in the playlist, while other pictures show things that can only be seen here. For a complete documentation of how I designed, built, and operated my Tesla coil, you can download my master's paper: Comparison of Tesla Coil Driver Topologies: Rotary Spark Gap versus Double Resonant Solid State

Nikola Tesla Figurine - 2012/08/17

This is a Nikola Tesla figurine about three inches high from foot to ball, made of stiff rubbery material. I bought it as a set of five scientist figurines from American Science and Surplus in 2008. The other scientists were Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Charles Darwin. To make Tesla electrically conductive, I had to carefully drill thin holes through his arm and body, then draw a copper wire from his feet to his right hand. I also drilled a hole through the yellow ball, which is supposed to represent one of his glowing phosphor-coated glass bulbs (or maybe a ball of pure plasma?). A steel sewing needle holds the ball onto his hand (ball was previously glued in place), and makes electrical contact with the wire inside his palm. Under his feet, this wire makes contact with the metal base.

Ultimately, it's really nothing more than a Tesla coil breakout point. But it's AWESOME because it looks like a tiny Mr. Tesla shooting lighting bolts from the palm of his hand! Also, the ball is glow-in-the-dark, so it really emits a yellow phosphorescent glow when influenced by any blue or violet light from the Tesla coil discharge.

Various Light Bulbs and Gas Discharge Tubes - 2012/08/23

Ever since discovering Mike Harrison's Lightbulb Plasma Globe webpage in 2001, I've wanted to experiment with light bulbs on a Tesla coil. Once I had completed my 100 kHz DRSSTC (Double Resonant Solid State Tesla Coil) in 2012, I was finally able to play around with different light bulbs on top of it.

Clear globe incandescent light bulb:

Ordinary clear incandescent light bulb:

Neon flicker-flame lamp:                               

100 W bulb with internal glass tube containing halogen filament:

Ordinary white-frosted incandescent light bulb:

75 W dark purple incandescent "black" light:

100 W antique carbon filament light bulb:

25 W yellow candle-flame-shaped light bulb:

Thanks to the highly controllable nature of the DRSSTC, I could operate it at low power, just enough to produce some beautiful internal streamers or glowing gas without harming the filaments or glass envelope. . . . . . 

. . . . . . But in some cases (as with this mercury vapor street lamp), I didn't care about harming it, and cranked the Tesla coil to the max.  

Here is a xenon flash tube, 22 inches long. I got it from a Kodak model 2110 Duplicator, a 1990's-vintage, high speed, photostatic copier that used two of these xenon flash tubes to instantaneously illuminate the entire surface of the document being copied, rather than relying on the slower raster-scan method with a long thin light source moving back-and-forth across the document bed.

This is a mercury vapor spectrum tube that I got from the university physics department. This type of gas-filled tube with a long thin neck is designed specifically for physics laboratory students to observe and measure optical emission spectra of various chemical elements. 

Compact Discs

With another inspiration from Mike Harrison - CD Zapping - I wished to delight in the sparkly, glitter-producing, Tesla-coil-induced destruction of CDs. With the CD mounted on a small metal stand, it was amazing to watch the CD's metal layer get gradually eaten away until the discharge preferentially went to the top point of the stand, bypassing any more metal that remained on the CD. Either that, or it caught on fire.

Giant Corona Motor - 2012/08/23

I had been experimenting with corona motors, for many years before this. They were about 6 inches long, made of piano wire, and typically powered by 25 kV from a CRT computer monitor flyback transformer. What would happen with a corona motor powered by an order of magnitude more voltage from a Tesla coil? First of all, I had to make one an order of magnitude larger. Otherwise, discharge would emanate from all parts of it. Using aluminum pipe, about 3/4 inch diameter, and the smoothest, least-friction bearing I could find, I managed to make Tesla coil sized corona motor that propelled itself fairly well from discharge on its end points.  

Christmas Tree - 2012/12/21

Since I put a Jack-o-lantern on my Tesla coil for Halloween, it seemed appropriate to put a small Christmas Tree on it for Christmas. I snapped branch off of a large long-needle pine tree, and stood it upright in an aluminum foil ball. It wouldn't be a proper Christmas tree with out lights, right? I soldered long copper wires onto some neon (orange) and argon (violet) glow discharge lamps, then wrapped the wires around the branches to attach them to the tree. The lamps would then glow orange and violet from the Tesla coil energy itself. No batteries required. 

Despite my lack of music talent, I somehow managed to use Audacity to compose a musical Tesla coil rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". I fed the signal into the DRSSTC driver to modulate the Tesla coil output with the Christmas Tree on top. I recorded video for the seventh episode of my "Stuff on a Tesla Coil" playlist. We Wish You A Tesla Christmas!


Tesla Flowers - 2013/05/27

For my Tesla coil experiments, I devised a weighted ground wire that I could raise and lower over top of the Tesla coil via a system of rope and pulleys. I could also spin this weight around in circles just before turning on the Tesla coil. I turned on the coil, and raised the ground line at reasonable pace while simultaneously acquiring a camera time exposure. The resulting images are what I like to call - Tesla Flowers.

On the same day, I figured I'd try my hand at a Nikola Tesla inspired double exposure selfie. It is the ultimate EE nerd thumbs up!

This page last updated: 2017/07/29