Portable Jacob’s Ladder For When…You Know… You Need A Portable Jacob’s Ladder

When do you need a portable Jacob’s Ladder? We don’t know, but apparently [mitxela] doesn’t want to leave home (or the laboratory) without one. So he built a portable unit that works for a few minutes on a battery. In the video (see below), he says he wouldn’t presume to claim it was the smallest Jacob’s Ladder ever, but he thought it might be a contender.

The battery is a LiPo cell and although it might last up to four minutes, [mitxela] points out that the transistors probably wouldn’t survive that much on time, despite the heat sinks he put in place. The whole device is 45mm square and 17mm thick. Of course, the wires add some height (about 150mm total).

We were hoping to see more of the insides, but we presume this uses one of the cheap high voltage modules you can procure from the usual Far East sources–or, at least–it could. The rest is just laser cutting and workmanship.

If you haven’t encountered them before (outside of old monster movies), a Jacob’s Ladder lets high voltage ionize the air down at the bottom of the narrow gap. The ionized air is hot and rises, and the current flows through it, despite the electrodes getting further apart. Of course, that means you shouldn’t put on in your zero-gee space station.

You might think a portable Jacob’s ladders is unique. Turns out, it isn’t. If you want something easy (and perhaps not as portable), you can’t get much easier than this one.

32 thoughts on “Portable Jacob’s Ladder For When…You Know… You Need A Portable Jacob’s Ladder

    1. I took a 4 kilovolt electric fence transformer and 2 paperclips and made a little jacob ladder on the first try. Now, about making a good voltage multiplier and a huge capacitor…

          1. Because it is a Jacob’s ladder. You should be able to find videos of them running on youtube, if the text of the article above doesn’t explain it sufficiently.

      1. The only links shows a video of the darn thing working, and some photos and no clear show on how it is made. Simple. You post on HaD you post the links. Who has time to start sleuthing for these nonsense.

        1. “This was just a funny project, sorry for lack of detail, I wasn’t really expecting it to get featured on hackaday.

          I spent dozens of hours trying to develop the right power supply without success. Then I discovered these cheap high voltage mod…”


          That took me what, three clicks to find? Boy are my fingers tired from all the “sleuthing!”</sarcasm>

  1. The high pitched sound coming from the video when the Jacob’s ladder is turned on is unbearable!

    Cool project, but that sound…The sound reminds me of the “mosquito” tone that kids use on their cellphones so that old farts like myself shouldn’t be able to hear em.

    1. Last time I ran into one of those kids, I could hear his cellphone before he could. The noise was painfully loud to me and he barely noticed it. The supervisor couldn’t hear it at all. There’s lots of diversity in how people’s hearing works.

    1. The last time I made a Jacob’s Ladder was a self-defense project: I had a neighbor who was constantly playing music at extremely annoying levels. I built a Jacob’s Ladder, and the RFI put a stop to his enjoyment and I could sleep, study, program, or whatever in peace. It worked beautifully against his radios, but it apparently worked against his CD players also. (NOTE: I BOUGHT him some wireless headsets once as a means of enabling his enjoyment of loud music without disturbing me, but he wouldn’t use them. So screw him. I don’t object to lower levels of sound penetrating my space, but this was VERY loud and highly intrusive.)

  2. One little correction to the write-up: The arc does not rise (primarily) because of hot air. The magnetic forces give it most of the push. It is the same effect that is used for railguns – a moving conductor on two parallell rails is always pushed away from the generator. It should work just fine even in a space station :)

      1. This German Wikipedia article (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakobsleiter_(Elektrizit%C3%A4t)) says we are both right and it does depend on the current.
        For small ladders like this one, it’s primarily the hot air, but with large ones and the overvoltage suppressors of this form, the magnetic component is larger. I got my info from an electricity transmission book, so it makes sense that they would emphasise the magnetic part :)

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.