Possibly The Most Beautiful Piece Of Hardware


I’m going to break from the typical Hackaday article format for a moment. I’m smitten, captivated by this wondrous new discovery. Forgive my ignorance for having never seen one of these before, I didn’t go to school for electronics. For those, who like myself wondered, what is this beautiful glowing thing, it is a mercury arc valve rectifier.

This is not some chintzy attempt at neo victorian styling (steampunk if you absolutely must), this is an actual piece of electronics used in the field. Widely used to convert alternating current to direct current for railways and street cars, these could actually be found in the wild. There was a time, that opening a door in a power station would have presented you with this fantastic green and purple glowing orb, dripping mercury sparkling inside. If you are anything like me, you would most likely have been frozen in your tracks, convinced you were bearing witness magic.

[via Make]

63 thoughts on “Possibly The Most Beautiful Piece Of Hardware

  1. get some gallium, coat a piece of glass using a vacuum chamber then heat up glass to get gallium oxide. Anneal, then drop in some GaIn alloy.
    If the oxide is thick enough the alloy (liquid near room temp.) will not stick to the glass but behave more like mercury including the desired rectification effect.
    Simplez. :)

  2. I work with the 150kv Mercury Arc valves at Manitoba Hydro’s Radisson and Dorsey transmission converter stations from 1988 to 2004 when I decommissioned them. It was like working in an old Sci-fi movie set. Really weird technology. That’s why I stayed. I still work there but all of the converters are now thyristors.

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