[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Tesla in the news

Original poster: Phil Rembold <prembold@xxxxxxxxx>


Sparks will fly

Mark Pilkington Thursday January 6, 2005 The Guardian

As the founding father of alternating current, the legacy of
Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla is felt every time we use an
electrical device. But, of all his creations, only the Tesla coil
bears his name. For aesthetic appeal, historic legacy and a
satisfyingly high level of danger the Tesla coil is the ultimate
fringe science icon, a role it has played to perfection in the
laboratories of numerous Hollywood mad-scientists.

The device is a step-up converter that uses two resonant coils to
transform low voltage input into extremely high frequency, high
voltage output. Usually channelled out via a toroid cap, the
spectacular and intense discharge is essentially man-made lightning.

Tesla unveiled his first coils in 1891, to demonstrate his dream of
wireless power transmission, which he would do successfully using a 60
metre tall, 15m wide coil at his Colorado Springs laboratory. This
coil, which easily generated millions of volts, reportedly produced
great sparks 40m long and could transmit electricity, wirelessly, over
25 miles.

It's said that the surrounding prairie shook as thunder and lightning
erupted from the lab, while locals described sparks crackling
underfoot some distance away. Tesla hoped ultimately to transmit power
worldwide, despite his fear of igniting the Earth's atmosphere through
his experiments.

Following a number of failed business ventures, Tesla faded from view
and died an anonymous death in 1943. But a version of his coil
technology would be used for decades in radios, cathode-ray tube
televisions, and in diathermic medical equipment.

In the 1970s artist and engineer Robert Golka built a 37m tall Tesla
coil in a hanger at Wendover Air Force Base in Utah. Golka, who
declared his own coil to be more powerful than the one at Colorado
Springs, initially attempted to create ball lightning with the tower,
allegedly with some success. His coil was later commissioned by the US
Air Force to test the effects of lightning strikes on aircraft,
leading to rumours of a lightning weapon.

Today Tesla's vision is kept alive by a global network of enthusiasts,
known as coilers, who stage often spectacular public demonstrations,
inspiring future generations of lightning junkies.