The Tesla coil might be one of the most interesting inventions of all time. Invented by Nikola Tesla, these devices represent one of the first attempts to harness the power of electricity. While these devices are no longer used for many things, they have a lot of potential for further development. Of course, none of that matters if you don’t even know how it works, so let’s try to explain it in a relatively simple way.
Who Was Nikola Tesla
Born in Austria and educated in engineering and physics, Nikola Tesla gained great fame when he moved to America. More than any other individual, Nikola Tesla is responsible for the spread of electrical power throughout the world. Although he was once employed by Thomas Edison, he soon left to create his own company.
In his day, Tesla was regarded as a “mad scientist” for his experiments with wireless energy transmission, some of which were incredibly dramatic. Although he generally doesn’t get the credit he deserves, there is a unit of force named after him. Teslas are standard units that express magnetic flux density.
Electricity Produces Magnetic Fields
In Tesla’s time, electricity was not very well-understood. Scientists had figured out how to generate small amounts of this force, but no one seemed able to use it for anything practical. However, one thing they did figure out was the relationship between electricity and magnetism.
Whenever you run a current of electricity through a wire, a magnetic field will be produced around that wire. So, if you loop the wire into a coil, those magnetic fields will overlap. In this way, each magnetic field can reinforce the other, leading to much stronger fields. All of this is caused by the movement of tiny particles called electrons. To put it simply: magnets can move and manipulate electrons, which results in the production of electricity.
At the same time, people also figured out that magnetic fields can produce electricity. Yes, it works both ways. Anyone who has ever examined the workings of a gas-powered generator can tell you that it works by moving coils of copper wire across a large magnet. Because this exchange of energy can go both ways, it is easy to see why Tesla wanted to make electric power free and available for all.
So, What Is A Tesla Coil?
The Tesla coil is a device that defies categorization, probably because it was invented before the categories existed. Some describe it as a radio-frequency oscillator, while others simply describe it as a large transformer. In some ways, it might also be described as an electrical amplifier. Either way, this is a device that uses two coils to generate high-voltage power at a very low current.
The Tesla coil is somewhat misnamed because it actually consists of two coils. By running power into one coil, then allowing it to jump a spark gap, a lot of power is generated. When it reaches the top of the second coil, it ionizes the surrounding air. Once the air is thus ionized, it becomes a conductor, and the electricity from the coil shoots outward in a display that looks a lot like miniature lightning bolts.
Here’s the crazy part: Because of the low current (measured in amps), this kind of electricity can be touched without electrocution. Edison attempted to discredit his former employee by electrocuting animals in the middle of the street. He claimed that Tesla’s alternating current was inherently unsafe, but the Tesla coil proves how wrong he was. Whether you use direct current or alternating current, low-amperage electricity is not dangerous to most living things.
How Does A Tesla Coil Work?
The Tesla coil consists of two coils, which are usually made of wound copper wire. Apart from this, it contains a primary capacitor, a secondary capacitor, and some kind of frame or housing to hold everything together.
The device takes energy from a power source (like a battery, for instance) and magnifies it by using a special transformer. This energy is then sent to the primary coil. Because a capacitor can store a charge (somewhat like a battery), the incoming power tends to go there first. Once the capacitor is full, the electricity has nowhere else to go except the primary coil. When this coil is full of electricity as well, the power is sent to the spark gap.
To understand this part, think about striking two jumper cables together. This is often done to test the viability of a car battery, so you should all be familiar with this. Electricity works by completing a circuit, and it naturally wants to complete this circuit. Thus, the excess power will “jump the gap” and migrate to the second coil.
As you might guess, the current will fill the second coil quickly, leaving it nowhere to go except the open air. That is why Tesla coils produce beautiful and dramatic displays of artificial lightning. Some people have even figured out ways to control a Tesla coil using music and sound. This makes a lot of sense because sound exists in frequencies just as electricity does.
Tesla’s work was undoubtedly ahead of its time. In fact, some of his work is still poorly understood. The Tesla coil has become a lot more well-known in the last decade or so, but it has mainly been used for public display and scientific demonstrations. And yet, Tesla believed that this device held the key to the transmission of wireless electricity without limits. If he had only been allowed to finish his giant Tesla coil at Wardencylffe, his dream might have become a reality.
In any case, we hope that we have given you a short introduction to this interesting device and its inventor. After reading this, you might want to make a Tesla coil for yourself, and we would encourage you to do so. Of course, you must be very careful, but the Tesla coil is a relatively simple thing. If we have given you proper education on this subject, we invite you to fill out the contact form below and learn even more.