Telsa Coils Demysitified
So What Exactly Is a Tesla Coil?
A Tesla Coil is an impressive device for those laymen unfamiliar with the workings of electricity and electrical circuits, but looking past their intimidating displays and association with advanced sciences, Tesla Coils are simple devices. The simplest explanation of a Tesla Coil would be an invention by Nikolai Tesla that drives an alternating current through a relatively simple set of connected circuits in such a way that electrons are driven “out” despite not having a particular destination. Though once an integral part of older spark gap transmitters, they have since become relegated to the realm of entertainment and education.
And How Do They Work?
A Tesla coil has five main features. A simple Tesla Coil begins by an alternating current is driven from the power source through a high voltage transformer that drives the current of a second circuit. This second circuit has three key elements arranged in numerous ways: a capacitor, a spark gap, and a primary coil. The capacitor builds charge as current is driven into it until the potential across the spark gap is sufficient to ionize the air between its ends and shorten the circuit. The capacitor then discharges through the primary and the potential is expended. This repeats, causing a alternation in frequency within the primary. Finally, a secondary coil uses resonance to drive electrons “up” or “out” into a conductive torus, which eventually builds up enough electrons to drive them into the atmosphere itself.
Where are they used?
Until the 1920’s, Tesla Coils or very similar devices were used as part of spark gap transmitters. In general, this has usage has fallen out of vogue, but very easy do it yourself transmitters can be constructed using the same technology. In education, Tesla Coils are often associated with demonstrations of concepts like faraday cages and used as a fascinating but simple device for engineers in training. Tesla suggested it may be possible to use Tesla Coils as a receiver of energy by using what is described as the “phantom loop effect.” In general, and like many of Tesla’s ideas, other methods of power generation and transmission were favored, and this usage never came into vogue.
A Little More About Nikolai Tesla and Tesla Coils
Nikolai Tesla has captured the imagination of thousands of young engineers in the last century. A brilliant scientist, humanitarian, and engineer. Though famous for his work with alternating current, Nikolai envisioned a significantly more grandiose future for his inventions. Nikolai devised several power generation and transmission methods that would have afforded households with cheap, affordable energy at a time when electricity was still a relatively uncommon luxury, but proving his applications and overcoming the monolithic competition he faced was a daunting task that he never managed to overcome. Central to his designs was the Tesla Coil and the myriad applications he saw for them. The aforementioned “phantom loop effect” was a phenomenon he sought to exploit as a means of generating energy directly from the Earth’s magnetosphere. Some designs even used Coil based transmission methods that would have served in place of the power grid of electrical wires that exist today. Many of his designs were met with ridicule and this combined with other factors eventually lead to his defeat by more conventional methods. Still, to this day Tesla and his Coils inspire young engineers to explore what might have been, and to create radically alternative means of power generation and transmission.