High Voltage: Lightning simulator can’t send you back to the future

Continuing on with our high-voltage theme, today we have a page describing Marx generators by [Grenadier]. Marx generators are devices that produce pulses of very high voltage with fast rise times. For most of us, that means that they can make neat sparks. For the more serious types out there, that also means that they are great for driving some high-powered lasers, simulating lightning strikes, and even igniting the conventional explosives surrounding the core of a nuclear weapon! His page includes a video of his Marx generator producing some pretty sparks for those of us who aren’t so serious.

We have featured several of [Grenadier's] projects in the past. This one doesn’t deviate from his normal style of taking a subject and clearly describing it with lots of well-taken pictures.

Recently, he has been working on improving one of his projects that deviates from what he normally does. He is calling it “The Junkbox”. The Junkbox is something like a free online swap meet where you can sell your electronic parts.


  1. Punkguyta says:

    I’ve been dying to make a marx generator for years now, but my mother won’t let me use her credit card haha.

    I don’t think regular “can” shaped capacitors would ever work for this kind of design would it? Does anyone know if you SPECIFICALLY need disc capacitors for making a marx generator?

    • S says:

      You could try to use homemade rolled aluminium foil-plastic film ones that works fine well into the several KV range. Dirty cheap and readily available materials and no need for mom’s credit card.

      • Punkguyta says:

        I’m not a little kid lol, I’m 18 with a hefty amount of electronics experience under my belt, are you trying to trick me or something?

        I’ve heard of home made laden jars/capacitors and potatoes batteries, but tinfoil capacitors with several KV range?

  2. grenadier says:

    I don’t think regular “can” shaped capacitors would ever work for this kind of design would it? Does anyone know if you SPECIFICALLY need disc capacitors for making a marx generator?

    You’d be hard pressed to find a 20kV electrolytic capacitor

  3. kobilica says:
  4. PeterF says:

    Im sorry but you cant ignite explosives (at least the common ones) with high voltage, unless youre thor the god of thunder. :-)

    I know you see that in TV all the Time but its not true, please excuse me that i dont go into details but a quick websearch will explain it better then i can do.

    And yes, i know what im talkin about, handle them from time to time ;-)

  5. anarchy2012 says:

    Google “The Manhattan project” .. Nuff said.

    Interestingly enough you can in fact set off explosives using a pulsed laser diode, this has been done using fibre optics to make an “idiot proof” demolitions system as even cutting through the fibre won’t set it off.

  6. Skean Dhu says:

    You’re getting your terminology mixed around

    • Skean Dhu says:

      So I hit return to add a new line and entered an unfinished message.
      Anyways, Primary explosives are the easiest to set off: Mercury fulminate, and various others that go off if you look at them funny. Secondary explosives are those that are commonly used in large quantities, the active ingredients in C-4, demolitions/mining charges are secondary explosives. Many of these can be beaten, burned,shot, sworn at and otherwise abused with no effect.
      I think what the HAD writers were hinting at are what’s known as an exploding bridge wire. simply you take a very large charge of electricity and send it through a very fine gague wire that explodes/vaporises. This rapid temperature/pressure rise combination is what is able to set off the explosives.

  7. laurence says:

    Would putting a bridge rectifier on it (4 diodes) make it work better or just have a higher frequency of sparks cause caps charge quicker??

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