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How a Tesla Coil Works

Posted by on February 22, 2011

The Tesla Coil we use in our show is a modern version of a classic device invented by Nikola Tesla. Our coil is called a DDSSTC (Dual Resonant Solid State Tesla Coil). This means the coil is controlled by transistors, just like in the computer you are reading this on. This is a modern upgrade to the device Tesla created, called the SSTC (Spark Gap Tesla Coil). But how does it work?

Nikola Tesla is not a well known man, but he is the father of our electric age. He was the pioneer of Alternating Current (AC) the type of electricity that comes out of your wall socket. This is different from Direct Current (DC) the type of electricity that comes from a battery. Tesla knew that AC was a much better way to deliver electricity to your house, and he helped design the electrical grid we use today.

Though Tesla didn’t like they way the world would look with so many wires running about to deliver power. He started work on a way to deliver power wirelessly so that there would be no need to run so many wires around the planet. His work lead him to the invention of the Tesla Coil.

A Tesla Coil works much in the same way your cell phone charger works, but in reverse. Instead of reducing voltage, it increases it. This is called a transformer. It has two main sets of windings, a primary winding and a secondary winding. The difference in the number of turns in each winding determines if the voltage out will be higher or lower then the voltage in and by how much. A Tesla Coil has very few turns on the primary (input) side, and many turns on the secondary (output) side. This increases the voltage tremendously.

But a Tesla Coil does much more then increase voltage, it increases frequency.  You can see a schematic of a Spark Gap Tesla Coil above. The capacitor and spark gap work together to create a very high frequency pulse to drive the primary coil. Tesla designed it this way because once you create very high voltage electricity at a very high frequency, you can create a field of energy with which to transmit power.

Here is a video of our Tesla Coil transmitting enough power to light up a Florescent light bulb.

Our Tesla Coil is different the the schematic above in that it has no spark gap. Instead, a series of transistors ‘switch’ current on and off at a very high frequency. This means we can control the Tesla Coil at different frequencies, and even produce sounds.

Here’s a video of two Dual Resonant Solid State Tesla Coils playing a song.

So this is how a Tesla Coil works. It creates high-voltage electricity at a high frequency. And when you produce this kind of electricity, you can do cool things like power light-bulbs with no wires.


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