The Tesla Coil generates 500,000 volts of high frequency electricity. This can create 3 feet long glowing arcs, sparks and corona glows of exceptional beauty. While very intense, and more than a little intimidating at close range, the beautiful light created by these arcs will mesmerize you, as they have me. The beauty in the arcs is why I have been building and improving Tesla Coils ever since high school. They also demonstrate important scientific principals and electrical phenomena, and some of these concepts created by Tesla are now used in all modern power supply design.
Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest 19 th century electrical geniuses. He invented the AC electric motor, was a principal developer of radio, and he was one of the major designers of our present AC electrical power distribution system. He designed and built the first power generating station at Niagara Falls, and this power was sent 300 miles to power the city of New York. In 1890 he invented the Tesla Coil in an effort to fulfill his dream of providing wireless electrical power to everyone in the world. He built increasingly more powerful Tesla Coils, and generated 135 foot long arcs in 1898. He was within several weeks of finishing his first full size wireless power transmitter at Wardenclyffe, NY when JP Morgan withdrew his financial support, and the project stopped.
I have built a wide variety of High Voltage devices to create beautiful and exciting arcs and sparks that range from several inches up to 7 feet long. Along with demos I also have 6 different picture laden scientific talks on electrical subjects, solar flares, and Lightning. I give demonstrations of my high voltage equipment to groups of interested people, and for interesting causes. These last from 15 to 50 minutes and can include up to 3 Tesla Coils, 3 Jacobs Ladders, 2 Induction Coils, and Van de Graaff generators, Wimshurst Generators, Plasma Speakers, Plasma Balls (up to 15 inches), and Plasma Light Sabers.
In my demonstrations I want to vividly show the beauty in the spectacular arcs, sparks and corona glow created by Tesla Coils and other High Voltage apparatus. As part of the demos I add explanations of the science involved in the operation of the equipment and the discharges. I put the high voltage devices into their place in the History of Technology, and explain how advances in science allowed the development of devices that could generate ever higher voltages (and thus more beauty).
I typically start out my demos with the generation of high voltage Static electricity, and then progress to the development of Alternating Current (AC) electricity which allowed the use of transformers to produce high voltages (10,000 volts) such as used in the Jacobs Ladder apparatus with ascending arcs. A further development of the transformer produced the Induction Coil which can change 12V into 100,000 volts or more. The high voltage Direct Current (DC) produced by the Induction Coil (along with the use of vacuum pumps) led to the invention of Radio, X-ray tubes, and the discovery of the electron which was the first component of nuclear physics. Plasma Globes and Plasma Light Sabers are an example of high voltage electrical discharges thru low pressure inert gases, and show the specific light spectrum emitted by each type of gas. This is how astronomers determine what types of atoms are in stars that are thousands of light years away.
In 1890 Nikola Tesla invented the Tesla Coil which took tens of thousands of volts generated by HV transformers and converted it to Radio Frequency energy which could be fed into his new coil, and then transformed into Millions of volts of electricity. His dream was to develop wireless power transmission for use by all of humanity, and this effort cumulated in his 1898 Tesla Coil in Colorado Springs that created 135 foot long arcs. For my demos I usually bring 2 medium Tesla coils, a vacuum tube Tesla Coil with 2 foot arcs and a traditional spark gap type Tesla Coil with 3 foot arcs.
A demo of my Tesla Coils and other high voltage equipment can last from about 20 minutes to over 50 minutes depending upon how many pieces of equipment I bring, how many experiments are run with each device, and how comprehensive my explanations of the science and operation of the apparatus are. I usually develop a semi-customized demo plan for each different venue.
I have run this equipment at over a dozen locations with no problems, including GearCon at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel, the Red Lion at Jantzen beach, the Marriott Waterfront and the Crown Plaza hotels, at art galleries, and the Tillamook County Library. My equipment has been run at the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) Maker Fair for 5 years, and for three years there we ran my BIG Tesla Coil which has 6 to 7 foot long arcs. The Portland Fire Marshal inspected and approved my setups there every year. In February of 2018 I gave eight demos at the Portland Winter Light Festival. My setup was in the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, and we had between 300 and 500 people at every demo. I estimate that over 5000 people have seen my demos with no problems.
I have developed a number of different lectures that I give on Science, on Tesla Coils, and on High Voltage equipment and effects. These are PowerPoint presentations and last from 30 to 50 minutes and can have Tesla Coil and high voltage demonstrations incorporated into them.
- Nikola Tesla and his Era of Inventions.
- High Voltage Static Electricity
- The History of Exceptionally High Voltages – covers static and continuous electricity
- Technology of the Tesla Coil – how they are built and operate
- Vacuum Tubes and the Vacuum Tube Tesla Coil
- The Carrington Event – Effects of massive solar flares on our electrical grids.
Talks under development:
- Discovery of Cathode Rays – How electrons were discovered, with demos.
- Lightning: Ball Lightning, Red Sprites, and Giant Blue Spires
Available for Demonstrations:
- 500 KV spark gap Tesla Coil, 3 foot arc
- 300 KV vacuum tube Tesla Coil, 2 foot arc
- Tiny Tesla Coil, with light bulb plasma ball
- Induction Coil, 4 inch arc, 120 KV
- Induction Coil, 2 inch arc, 60 KV
- Large Jacobs Ladder, 8 feet tall, 2KW
- Medium Jacobs Ladder, 5 feet tall, 720W
- Small Jacobs Ladder, 3 feet tall, 230W
- Plasma Speaker, 10 KV, audio output, ionization demos
- 15 inch diameter Plasma Ball
- 8 inch Plasma Ball, and 3 inch Plasma Ball
- 36 inch Plasma Light Saber
- 750 KV Van de Graaff static electricity generator (2 foot sparks)
- 80 KV Wimshurst static electricity generator
- 1 Million Volt Tesla Coil, 6 to 7 foot long arcs (needs very large room with high ceiling and high current branch circuit, 30A minimum, heavy, difficult to move)
- 400 KV Electronic Tesla Coil with singing ability, 3 foot arcs
- 200 KV Electronic Tesla Coil with singing ability, 15 inch arcs
- Cross tubes for gas discharge experiments.
- Crookes tubes for electron beam demonstrations.
To demonstrate both of the medium Tesla Coils (3 foot arcs, 500 KV and 2 foot arcs, 300 KV) I need a large (roughly 20 feet wide by 14 feet deep, with a 12 foot minimum ceiling height) DARK area so the faint luminous phenomena in the discharges can be seen. I usually bring 2 medium Tesla coils, a traditional spark gap type Tesla Coil with 3 foot arcs, and a vacuum tube Tesla Coil with 2 foot arcs. I also have 3 large Jacobs Ladders with 2, 4, and 6 foot tall electrodes, Induction coils, Plasma Globes, and other 19th century High Voltage apparatus.
I need enough room to keep a minimum 6 foot radius clearance area around the 500 KV Tesla Coil (3 foot arc), and a 4 foot radius clearance area around the 300 KV Tesla Coil (2 foot arc) so that the discharge will not touch anything. This discharge is around 500,000 volts, but the current is very low and the frequency is very high, so this discharge is not hazardous. In the early 1900’s they used Tesla Coils in Vaudeville shows where a person would be charged up, and could give 6 inch long sparks to an assistant.
There are hazardous voltages inside the Tesla Coil (120 volts and much higher voltages) so it is run in a roped off area, and it is controlled by a push button switch so it is only turned on when I want it on and I am viewing the area. I have lighted stanchions to create a roped off area all around the demonstration area to keep people out of the danger area. The equipment needs to be in DARK area so the faint luminous phenomena in the discharges can be seen. Tesla Coils generate strong electric and magnetic fields, and RF fields in the 100 KHz to 500 KHz frequency range, which in rare cases may cause interference with nearby electronic and electrical equipment or PA systems. People with implanted medical electronics should not be close to this equipment, so we post warning signs about this, and announce this to the audience before the demo. This has not been a problem in any of my demos.
I need to inspect the venue beforehand to be sure that my equipment will work well there.
The medium Tesla coil runs best on a 20-amp branch circuit at 120 VAC, and the other equipment will run on a 15-amp, 120 VAC circuit.
Setup time is 2 to 5 hours depending upon how much equipment I bring, and on how much help I have to assemble it. Much of my equipment is disassembled for storage, and for transport, so it must be reassembled for operation. For a full setup I bring about two SUV loads of equipment. Teardown is about half of the setup time. I like to have an assistant to help in the setup and teardown, and to help with demos so they run faster
The Good Dr. Professor Anderson
A wee bit of introduction for me. I am a Physicist and Electrical Engineer, and originally worked at Tektronix before moving into Electrical Engineering and specializing in Power Distribution Systems, power supply design for electronics, and worked as a Power Quality engineer at PGE. I later moved into EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) Engineering and Electrical Product Safety areas. I started making Tesla Coils in high school, and the coils gradually became larger, and larger, in an effort to make longer arcs.
About 9 years ago I became interested in the Steampunk community and its design aesthetic. In the Steampunk community Tesla has a near god status, so I built a Tesla Coil small enough to be easily moved, developed a presentation on the life and inventions of Nikola Tesla, and started giving talks at Steampunk and Science Fiction Conventions on Tesla with Tesla Coil demo sessions at the end. All of my equipment is built with the Steampunk design aesthetic in mind and is designed to be displayed, and has been entered in several Steampunk Art shows.
The Good Dr. Professor Anderson lives just outside of Portland Oregon.
Email: don_anderson4 at yahoo dot com