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High-Energy Guru Is Building the World's Biggest Tesla Coils

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You don't have a Tesla coil? And you call yourself a mad scientist. You should take a lesson from electrical engineer Greg Leyh and build yourself a pair of 118-footers. That'll show those fools who laughed at you in evil medical school, that will show them all!!! MUAHAHAHAHA!! *Lightning Crash*

A Tesla coil is, essentially, a high-frequency air-core transformer that was originally invented by Nikola Tesla around 1891. They're designed to produce high voltage, low current, high frequency AC electricity by drawing power from a 120v AC source through multiple transformers and driver circuits to amplify the voltage to an extremely high level—anywhere from 1,000,000 to 100,000,000 volts. This massive voltage generates extremely powerful electrical fields which disperse via the coil's famous electrical arcs. These fields have been forceful enough to power fluorescent lights at a distance of up to 50 feet.


Modern Tesla coils are built primarily by enthusiasts for either educational or entertainment purposes and typically use the inventor's later "air core" design. They are constructed to include both a primary and secondary LC circuit, which act as electrical resonators to store electrical energy oscillating at the circuit's resonant frequency. The primary LC circuit includes a high voltage capacitor, spark gap and the primary coil, while the secondary LC circuit comprises the secondary coil and "top load" or terminal capacitance. These two circuits are then tuned to resonant frequencies and magnetically coupled.

The largest Tesla coil in the world currently resides on a farm just outside Auckland, New Zealand. Prominent art patron Alan Gibbs had the piece built the late artist Eric Orr and Leyh in April 1998. The four-story tower, dubbed "Electrum," produces three million volts and 50-foot long discharge arcs. However, it may not be the largest for much longer.


The largest coil of all time was an 18-story tower built in 1903 by Tesla at Wardenclyffe, Long Island that was torn down before becoming operational. Now Leyh wants to recreate that massive coil—and then double it. The dual 118-foot tall coils, known as "Lightning on Demand," are currently being constructed on an 81-acre plot in the Nevada Desert. When completed, the two coils will pump out 10-million-volt arcs more than a 100-yards long. Enough for any young Frankenstein to produce a monster or three of his very own.

[Boing Boing 1, 2 - Wikipedia - NY Tesla Society - Atlas Obscura - Top image:]

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