DIY Ball Lightning

From:  Bill Lemieux [SMTP:gomez-at-netherworld-dot-com]
Sent:  Wednesday, April 01, 1998 12:30 PM
To:  Mark Bennett
Cc:  tesla-at-pupman-dot-com
Subject:  Re: DIY Ball Lightning

Dear Mark,

> Did you get your tesla coils going ok?

Not sure what you're talking about, but here's some status info:

DiaboliCo has three models of Tesla coil now being offered.  All three
work fine, although I'm working on improvements to the new table-top 
unit and the big 8ft. machine.

I am waiting on a machine shop to deliver the crucial parts to the new
rotary-series-quench spark gap.

> I'm still trying to track down the guys who did the BL experiments. Did you
> ever get any data on how to do it?


>   Corum and Corum reproduce Nikola Tesla's BL production technique!

Neat trick, since he never recorded or wrote about how he did it.  There
is precisely zero information about what methods he used, other than
he saw it happen occasionally when he turned off the power to the big
C-Springs magnifier and later managed to reproduce it at will.

>   This type of BL arises when RF arcs with impulsive envelopes
>   vaporise carbon, and the Corums believe the phenomena to be a sort of
>   stable combustion process with carbon or copper and ozone, with a
>   diffusion-limited agglomeration structure (aerogel) which somehow
>   slows the combustion process.  Their 'fireballs' range in size
>   up to 5cm, last several seconds, change color with time, and some-
>   times terminate existance with a bang.  Numerous photos and video
>   stillframes of the phenomena.

I'll have to look into this. People have been producing things they call
"plasmoids" in microwave ovens using candles, but I don't have a large
enough microwave with which to try this.  Unfortunately, I gave away a
750W beat-up microwave oven that I had earmarked for experiments.  I
will be on the lookout for another one, however.

Something I want to try is to use my new "banger" or "pulser" to bang
hell out of a high-Q tank circuit, and also possible the bottom of a 
"magnifier" coil.

I'm also interested in the following free-air plasma-compression

 _|_             _____|_____     <-- needle point array 1
|   |            | | | | | |  
|   |         o               o
|   |         o               o  <-- low-Z solenoid, energized by banger
|   |         o               o
|   |            | | | | | |
|   |            -----------     <-- needle point array 2
|___|                 |
                     ---         <-- ground

I use the term "plasma" loosely, since I'm not sure if a glow-discharge
really qualifies as a plasma.  I think the mean temperature has to be
higher. (the CRC handbook states, "temperature of the collection of 
these particles is sufficiently high for the ionization to be above 5%." 
The purpose of this experiment is to answer the question:
"What happens when a glow discharge, covering a relatively large volume
of highly ionized air at 1 atm. is suddenly confined to a much smaller

The answer may well be, "nothing interesting".  But we won't know that
until we try it, will we?  :-)

If nothing else, it would be a fun experiment.  The difficulty would be
insulate the banger coil (and thus, the banger components) from the
coil voltages, but if the needle point arrays had corona rings, and the
solenoid coils were carefully insulated, and had "strike rails" above
below them, it should be possible to do this without frying my banger
parts.  The needle arrays themselves should ensure that the voltage
get high enough to generate long arcs. I hope.

NOTE to Tesla coil list: if anyone has done or knows of a similar
experiment and any documented results, please email me personally!


.                personal email: gomez-at-netherworld-dot-com                .
.          personal web page: http://www-dot-netherworld-dot-com/~gomez       .