Producing Ozone at 3500 RPM


Motors are fun, and high voltage even more so. We’re guessing that’s what went through [brazilero2008]’s mind when he put together an electrostatic motor using upcycled parts he found lying around.

The electrostatic rotor works by connecting a very high voltage, low current power supply – in this case an industrial air ionizer – to a set or rotors surrounding a plastic rotor. The hot electrodes spray electrons onto the rotor, which are picked up by the ground electrodes. If the system doesn’t arc too much, you have yourself a plastic rotor that spins very, very fast.

[brazilero]’s device is made out of an aluminum turkey pan, a few acrylic tubes, and a few cardboard disks; all stuff you can find in a well-stocked trash can. After completing the device, it was taken apart and finished and screwed onto a beautiful painted jewelry box. Very cool for something you can make out of trash, and dangerous enough to be very interesting.

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Do It Yourself Nuclear Fusion

By far the coolest projects we see are those dealing with high voltages and deep vacuums. Vacuum tubes of all types fall into this category, as do the electron microscopes we see from time to time. The king of all vacuum and electron hacks is the Farnsworth Fusor, a machine that will both transmute the elements and bathe you in neutrons. Fun stuff, and [Daniel] has a great tutorial for building your own.

[Dan]’s fusor is surprisingly simple to make. Obviously, the most important part is the vacuum chamber which in this build is based around a glass oil cup cylinder. With just a few roughly machined parts – the only tool needed to make the metal plates is a drill press – it can hold a low enough vacuum to contain a star in a jar.

For reasons of safety and sanity, [Dan] isn’t running his fusor at a high enough voltage to actually fuse deuterium into helium. This is really just a beautiful, glowey demonstration of what can be done with enough knowledge, the skills, and a handful of parts.

“Professor Kill A. Volt” Shocks Pumpkins with his Tesla Coil


[JJ Dasher] is back again this year, shocking some pumpkins! (Volume warning). We featured [JJ] two years ago for his Halloween candy shocking Tesla coil. He apparently has been busy in his mad scientist laboratory doing some upgrades. This year his coil is producing 5 foot long streaming arcs!

[JJ’s] Tesla coil is a uses two microwave oven transformers as a power supply. He also uses an Asynchronous Rotary Spark Gap (ASRG). As the name implies, a rotary spark gap uses a motor to turn a rotor. At certain points in the rotation, the rotor creates a small enough gap that a high voltage spark can jump across, energizing the primary coil. This idea is similar to an automotive ignition system distributor. [Pete] gives a great example of an ASRG in this video. Most ASRG based Tesla coils use the small motor to spin up the spark gap. Varying the speed of the motor creates the characteristic “motor revving” noise heard in the final arcs of the Tesla Coil.

[JJ] made things a bit more interesting by installing a couple of fluorescent bulbs inside a pumpkin near the coil. The coil lights them easily, and they glow even brighter when the pumpkin is struck. Still not satisfied, he also donned his grounded chainmail gloves and drew the arc to himself. We always love seeing people safely taking hits from massive Tesla coils, but this definitely falls under the “don’t try this at home” banner.

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A Much More DYI Air Gap Flash Unit

In reaction to the other air gap flash unit we featured a few days ago, [Eirik] sent us a tip about another one he recently made. In his setup, the duration of the flash peak intensity is around 300ns (1/3,333,333 of a second). As a reminder, an air flash unit consists of a circuit charging a high voltage capacitor, a circuit triggering a discharge on demand, a high voltage capacitor and the air flash tube itself. The flash tube contains two wires which are separated just enough to not spark over at max potential. Isolated from the other two, a third wire is placed in the tube. This wire is connected to a trigger/pulse transformer, which will ionize the gap between the two capacitor leads. This causes the gap to breakdown and a spark to form, thereby creating a flash of light.

[Eirik] constructed his flash tube using an olive jar and a glass test tube. As you can see from the (very nice) picture above, the spark travels along the glass test tube, making the quenching much faster than in an open air spark. [Eirik] built his own high voltage capacitor, using seven rolled capacitors of roughly 2nF each made with duct-tape, tin foil and overhead transparencies. For ‘safety’ they are stored in a PP-pipe. A look at the schematics and overall circuit shown on the website reveals how skilled [Eirik] is, making us think that this is more a nice creation than a hack.

Disclaimer: As with the previous airgap flash, high voltages are used here, so don’t do this at home.

oneTesla electrifies Maker Faire NY 2013


Throughout the maker pavilion, the siren song of a musical Tesla coil could be heard. Those who followed their ears found themselves at the oneTesla booth. OneTesla is a hobby Tesla coil, with the added twist of polyphonic MIDI input.

Started by three MIT students, oneTesla had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year. Like many kickstarters, they are a bit behind in the shipping department. They are shipping out their third run of kits to backers now. The group had a small number of oneTesla coils for sale at the show, which appeared to have sold out by midday Sunday.

The actual process of generating sound with a Tesla coil is fascinating. All Tesla coils are resonant at high frequency. In oneTesla’s case, this is 220kHz. Human hearing ends around 20kHz, so this is well beyond the range of perception. Since the coil is locked in at this frequency, the power to the coil is modulated at the desired sound frequency. Playing an A note for example, would mean modulating the coil at 440Hz.

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Homebuilt 30kV High Voltage Power Supply

If you have need for 30,000 volts to launch your ionocraft (lifter) or power other DIY projects then shuttle over to RimstarOrg’s YouTube channel and checkout [Steven Dufresne’s] homebuilt 30kV power supply. The construction details that [Steven] includes in his videos are always amazing, especially for visual learners. If you prefer text over video he was kind enough to share a schematic and full write up at

The power supply can be configured for 1.2kV – 4.6kV or 4kV – 30kV at the output while requiring 0-24V DC at the input. In the video [Steven] tries two power supplies. His homemade DC bench power supply at 8V and 2.5A and also a laptop power supply rated at 20V 1.8A DC. A couple of common 2N3055 power transistors, proper wattage resistors, a flyback transformer and a high voltage tripler is about all you’ll need to scrounge up. The flyback transformer can be found in old CRT type televisions, and he does go into details on rewinding the primary for this build. The high voltage tripler [Steven] references might be a bit harder to source. He lists a few alternates for the tripler but even those are scarce: NTE 521, Siemens 76-1 N094, 1895-641-045. There are lots of voltage multiplier details in the wild, but keep in mind this tripler needs to operate up to 30kV.

Join us after the break to watch the video and for a little advice from Mr. Safety.

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Making S’mores with 50,000 Volts

Cooking a Marshmallow with HV

[Skyy] sent us a video of him cooking s’mores with an electric arc. He’s using a flyback transformer with a zero voltage switching (ZVS) driver. This produces about 50 kV, which is more than enough to toast the marshmallow.

ZVS is a technique that triggers the semiconductor switches when they have zero voltage across them. This ensures that there’s minimal heat created by the switches, since they are not interrupting any current at the time they are toggled. ZVS is also used in lighting dimmers to switch off power without creating interference.

If you’re interested in the details, there’s a great tutorial on building the driver. If you’re interested in learning how it works, check out this simulation video.

[Skyy] admits that his setup isn’t terribly safe since it uses a breadboard, which isn’t rated for the high voltages and currents. Keep in mind that these circuits could kill you. After the break, watch a marshmallow fry in a 50 kV arc.

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