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What is a Tesla Coil, and Why Is It So Cool Anyway?

If you know anything about Nikola Tesla, you probably know that he invented the Tesla coil. But that might be all Greek (or Serbian!) to you! Not to worry. In this short article, we’ll explain what exactly a Tesla coil is, why it’s cool, and how you can even build one or buy a kit to make one yourself!

What a Tesla Coil Is

A Tesla coil is a machine that was first designed and invented by Tesla in 1891. It requires a high-voltage power supply and makes lightning bolts. When it is connected to a MIDI device, it can create music. Used to produce high-voltage, low-current, and high-frequency alternating-current electricity, Tesla coils illustrate man’s dream to produce electricity without using wires.

Why It Is Cool

Nowadays if you see a Tesla coil, it’s likely used for entertainment whether in a science museum or at a public event or for special effects in movies. An air-core transformer with a high frequency, a Tesla coil increases the input of 120 volts AC to around 100,000 volts. Due to the high electric field of the Tesla coil, the air around the high voltage terminal ionizes and conducts electricity, resulting in colorful corona discharges, brush discharges, and streamer arcs.

Depending on if you’re more into science or aesthetics, you may be more amazed by the electrical arcs or the fact that Tesla coils in the past were known to light up fluorescent lights almost 50 feet away wirelessly. Pretty cool, right?

How You Can Make One

You can buy a variety of kits to build a mini Tesla coil or a much larger one, but if you’re more of a DIY type of person, there are a variety of sites that will give you step-by-step directions to build a Tesla coil yourself like this one for a mini Tesla coil and this one for a larger Tesla coil.

As a safety note, do remember that you are dealing with high voltage, and a Tesla coil’s streamers can shock and harm you. If you are shocked by the streamers, you will not feel any pain, but you may seriously damage your circulatory and nervous system. When the Tesla coil is on, you should NOT touch it under any circumstances.

If making a Tesla coil isn’t quite your thing, you can always buy a fully assembled one. While buying a Tesla coil or even making one yourself is probably not as cool as when Tesla had his aha moment to invent the Tesla coil, it has to come pretty close!