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How does a Tesla Coil Work

By Sara . Updated: January 16, 2017
How does a Tesla Coil Work
Image: teslasocietyPicture: sprott.physics.wisc.edu

Around the year 1891 a scientist named Nikola Tesla invented an electrical resonant transformer circuit called Tesla coil. The main thought that triggered the invention of Tesla coil was that Nikola Tesla didn’t like the world becoming a web of wires to deliver power to every corner. So, he started experimenting on ways through which electricity can be delivered wirelessly. Also, Tesla knew that AC (Alternating Current) would prove to be a much better way to deliver electricity than DC (Direct Current). Keeping these two thoughts in mind he continued with his experiments and finally invented the Tesla coil. The Tesla coil is mainly used to produce high voltage, low current high frequency alternating current electricity.

In this article we will know how a Tesla Coil Works.

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Principal of the Tesla Coil

The principal behind the Tesla coil is quite simple. Tesla coil is used to achieve a phenomenon called Resonance. When the primary coil shoots current into secondary coil at the exact time to maximize energy transferred into secondary coil the phenomenon called Resonance occurs.

Setup of Tesla Coil

The Tesla coil consists of two main parts: the primary coil and the secondary coil. Both the primary coil and the secondary coil consist of their own capacitors. Both these coils are connected by a gap of air between two electrodes which generates spark of electricity. This air gap is known as spark gap. The whole system is powered by an outside source which is hooked up to a transformer. The transformer converts the low voltage of main power into high voltage because the Tesla Coil needs a high voltage power source. Basically, the Tesla coil is two open electric circuits connected by a spark gap.

How does a Tesla Coil Work - Setup of Tesla Coil
Image: askamathematician

Working of Tesla Coil

Since the primary coil should be such that it can with stand massive charge, it is made out of copper which is a good conductor of electricity. When the power source is connected with the primary coil its capacitor starts to store the charge. Eventually so much charge is built in the capacitor that it breaks down the air resistance in spark gap. As the air resistance is broken the current flows out of the capacitor down the primary coil creating a magnetic field around it.

The massive energy quickly collapses the magnetic field and generates an electric current in the secondary coil. Then, sparks occur in the Tesla coil due to the voltage zipping through air between the two coils. The energy starts going back and forth between the two coils at the rate of several hundred times per second. The energy starts building up in the secondary coil and its capacitor. When the charge in the secondary capacitor becomes sufficiently high, it breaks free in the form of a spectacular burst of electric current. This high frequency voltage is capable of illuminating fluorescent bulbs kept several feet away without any wire connection.

How does a Tesla Coil Work - Working of Tesla Coil
Image: i.telegraph 

Application of Tesla Coil

Until 1920 the Tesla coil circuit was used in sparkgap radio transmitters for wireless telegraphy, in pseudo medical devices like violet rays and electrotherapy devices.

Nowadays Tesla coils are used as igniters in arc welders and as leak detectors in high vacuum systems.

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How does a Tesla Coil Work
Image: teslasocietyPicture: sprott.physics.wisc.edu
Image: askamathematician
Image: i.telegraph 
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