The Tesla Gun: a history

Staci Elaan is an electrical engineer who has been making Tesla guns since 2006. Her sixth generation MK6-18V is a battery powered, solid state piece of badass kit:

In the course of building my Tesla gun I had trolled YouTube and had found a few odd videos, like RMCybernetic’s infamous plasma gun:

…and this sketchy fellow:

But I wanted to build something different. Yet somehow I had missed Staci’s incredible designs. Back in May she published a history of Tesla gun designs in an effort to set the record straight. I had no idea that hand-held Tesla gun designs have been around since at least 2004!

My project got a surprising amount of attention for an idea that has been around for the better part of a decade. The Tesla gun I built this year is by no means the first (or even the first battery powered device). My simple static spark gap design is a kid’s toy compared to some of the solid state designs that came before mine.

My hat goes off to Staci and all the pioneers of hand-held lightning devices!

Do you know of other Tesla gun builds that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve? Post them below!

The Tesla Gun

The year was 1889. The War of the Currents was well underway. At stake: the future of electrical power distribution on planet Earth. With the financial backing of George Westinghouse, Tesla’s AC polyphase system competed for market dominance with Edison’s established (but less efficient) DC system, in one of the ugliest and most epic tales of technological competition of the modern age.

More than a hundred years after the dust settled, Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders published The Five Fists of Science: a rollicking graphical retelling of what really happened at the turn of the last century. (Get yourself a copy and read it immediately, unless you’re allergic to AWESOME). On the right is the cover to this fantastic tale of electrical fury.

See that dapper fellow in front? That’s a young Mr. Tesla. See what he’s packin’?

Yep. Tesla Guns. Akimbo.

As I read this fantastic story, gentle reader, certain irrevocable processes were set in motion. The result is my answer to The Problem of Increasing Human Energy: The Tesla Gun. For reals.

Continue reading “The Tesla Gun”

Porcelain HV switch

After tragically melting my previous HV switch, and given that a 15kV multi-ampere switch isn’t exactly something you find at Radio Shack, I’ve had to resort to more drastic measures. It was time to make one from scratch.

And when I say scratch, I mean mud. And by mud, I mean porcelain.

The fine folks at Metrix CreateSpace had just to tools I needed: a 3D powder printer to make a slip cast mold, and a kiln to fire the clay into porcelain. After a couple of revisions, I settled on something vaguely resembling a cooling tower. This will let me install a tiny turbine in the bottom to pull out hot ions, while using a minimum amount of material for the switch itself.

Install some tungsten welding electrodes (held in place with high temperature silicone) and voila: a handy switch capable of handling a couple of kilowatts at 15+kV!

Did I mention that, given the incompressibility of porcelain and the shape of the cooling base, it is perhaps a little loud?