[Steven Dufresne] of Rimstar.org is at it again with another very functional science experiment. This week he’s showing us how he made a large electrostatic motor, also known as a Corona Motor.
A Corona motor makes use of a cool
phenomenon called the Corona discharge, which is the ionization of a fluid
(in this case, air) surrounding a conductor that is energized. He’s done other high voltage experiments that take advantage of this, like his Ion Wind propelled Star Trek Enterprise!
The motor works by using an even number of electrodes on the motor, each electrically charged; positive, negative, positive, negative, etc.
Because each electrode is the opposite charge, they want to repel each other — but since the cylinder is electrically insulated, the charges have no where to go — instead the cylinder begins to rotate as the charges attract back and forth — when a positive charge on the insulation meets a negatively charged electrode, the charge is removed by ionization (creating the corona effect), and the cycle continues. The direction of rotation is determined by the angle of the electrodes. The motor can get going pretty fast but doesn’t have that much torque or power.