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High Frequency Phenomena and Experiments

By Federick Von Lichtenow

EXPERIMENTAL electricity in its various phases has always held an unresistable fascination for me. Under its captivating influence I find myself experimenting thruout the year, whenever time allows this, ever in search for the unknown trail leading to some new wonderland of electrical manifestations. This trail is exceedingly hard to find, not to speak of the wonderland beyond, in the shape of a "new discovery"

The principles underlying the thousands of tried experiments are known to science; and in order to present something perfectly new, the principle involved must at the same time be a novel one; I have not succeeded that far, sorry - to say, and the few experiments given here may be original only in the way in which they are offered. From a practical or mechanical standpoint they are worthless; in fact, they would cease to be experiments with the moment they could be put to a practical use.

A tube of glass about a foot long and one-half inch in diameter is filled with enough small fragments of carbon (those taken from an ordinary lead pencil or arc light carbon suffice) so that they cover its lower surface completely, when placed flat on the table.

The openings at both ends of the tube are plugged up with corks, thru the centers of which short ends of brass or copper wire are inserted in order to make connection with the carbon particles. The outward protruding ends are shaped into rings, preferably soldered at the joints, (see Fig. 1). The smaller ring connects to one secondary post of the Tesla coil, while the larger one supports, and at the same time "grounds." the tube on the table.

As indicated already unipolar current is employed. When the current passes, wonderfully blue-white sparks run in a steady stream over the carbon fragments, illuminating the whole tube, while the larger ring sends off a spray of violet light on its lower curve. Upon approaching the tube with the hand, fingers spread apart, violet streamers, accompanied by a sizzling noise, can be drawn thru the glass into each extended finger, (Fig. 2). The length of these streaming sparks depends naturally - on the electrical output of the generating set used.

With only a 1 1/2 inch "Bulldog" spark coil and a standard "Electro" Tesla transformer of the same make, together with the proper condenser capacity and a spark gap provided with long, sharply pointed zinc electrodes, I was able to draw sparks one inch in length which were visible in a lighted room. However, the beauty of this experiment can be appreciated to the fullest in perfect darkness only, when the actual length of the sparks, which are really considerably longer, may- be ascertained. To heighten the effect, the spark gap should be darkened also. I may add that the glass tube soon cracks under the electrical strain and has to be replaced by a new one.

A flexible helix wire, having a clip on one end, is connected to one secondary binding post of the Tesla coil, while the clip engages in the copper rod attached to the oscillator. This latter consists of a plate of zinc 8 or 10 inches square and a heavy copper rod, carrying a 1 inch solid brass ball, brightly polished, on its end and soldered to it, (see Fig. 3.) Hard-rubber stands as shown in Fig. 4 support the oscillating plate and afford the proper insulation.

In the plane of the waves oscillating from the sheet of zinc, a large inductance coil, about 2 feet long, 2 inches in diameter, and wound with a single layer of fine (No. 36 or 38 B. & S.) insulated magnet w-ire, is then placed. This coil has a binding post on either end, to which pieces of stout copper wire are fastened, and may be mounted on a separate table from the one holding the Tesla set (Fig. 5). Here again the power of the generating set regulates the distance between the oscillator and the inductance coil. With the aforementioned, comparatively small outfit, this distance was limited to a foot and a half on the outside.

Upon the current being turned on and wires approached to within about 1/4 inch, violet-colored sparks will pass between their points. If the wire on the further end is now grounded by holding it in one hand, the sparks will be increased to more than twice their former length. This experiment affords a very spectacular way of lighting Geissler and other vacuum tubes. The coil ends should, for best results, be constructed of some insulating material, or if made of wood this should be thoroly coated with shellac, the same as the insulated wire windings.

An inductance, resembling the secondary coil of an Oudin resonator is placed within the center of a helix, (see Fig. 6). At the time when this idea occurred to me, I employed a standard "Electro" helix, (after having the top removed) and a specially made inductance coil 8 1/4 inches in height, 2 1/2 inches in diameter and wound with a single layer of very fine, (No. 36 or 38 B. & S.) silk covered, magnet wire, thoroly coated with shellac. The brass ball proper has a diameter of two inches. Both coil ends consist of solid brass instead of some insulating material for the sake of other experiments. (Fig. 7)

If the helix is now connected up as shown in diagram, sparks may be taken off at the coil terminal, Geissler tubes lighted, etc., altho this coil is in no wise connected to the circuit, both coil and helix merely working under the principle of the Tesla transformer. In all these experiments it is imperative to have the connecting wires as short and straight as possible and also heavy besides. Both the rubber-covered copper cable and the insulated flexible stranded copper wire are entirely satisfactory in this respect.

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