TCBA founder, Harry Goldman and the TCBA logo

TCBA - Tesla Coil Builders Association

Devoted to the construction, operation and theoretical analysis of the Tesla coil

TCBA Volume 10 - Issue 1

Page 15 of 18

The spark gap is a rotary type, with fifteen studs mounted radially on a fifteen inch acrylic disk. The disk is attached to a motor shaft, and is opposed by two teflon posts which hold studs that are attached to the tank circuit. The studs on the disk are attached together with copper braid. the motor is one-eighth horsepower and turns at 1750 rpm. the rear shaft of the motor is attached to a tachometer that generates a signal for the rpm gauge on the instrument and control panel. The motor speed can be controlled somewhat by a variac on the front panel. The break rate of the gap can be computed by:(6)

This gap has a rate of 440 breaks per second. Break rate and dwell of the gap are related to coupling of the primary and the secondary, and varying the gap parameters can have a favorable effect. The ability to change gap parameters more efficiently is planned into a newer gap not yet installed.

The capacitor used is currently 0.1 microfarads at 40 kv. The construction is polypropylene and circuit connections are made via studs out the ends of the unit. The capacitor is rated for heavy duty pulse operation, which is important. A capacitor may have high voltage ratings than this and not last once exposed to the heavy circulating currents of this type of circuit.

Safety spark gaps were installed across the transformer and the capacitor. These are set to fire occasionally when the circuit is operating. They fire when the voltage across either device gets too high for the device to handle. The safety gap shorts the voltage transient around the units thus protects them from breakdown. Chokes are placed in series with the transformer output to protect the windings from current surges and parasitic oscillations. The chokes were wound with twelve gauge solid wire on cores of acrylic plastic.

The tank circuit is wired with fourteen gauge high voltage wire to the transformer and chokes. The tank loop is wired with 2/0 gauge welding cable and 1 1/2-inch copper braid. These heavy conductors are used due to the large circulating currents that run in the tank loop. Wire lengths are kept short and connections are crimped and soldered.

The primary inductor of this system consists of three inch by .035-inch copper strip wound in an Archimedian spiral about the base of the secondary. The strip is supported by six wood blocks with slits cut in them to hold the windings in place. The inner end of the inductor is attached via one-and-one-half inch copper braid to ground. The inductor can be tapped at any point using a length of welding cable with an alligator clip on one end. The other end is attached to the tank circuit.

The secondary coil was wound using twelve gauge teflon-coated stranded wire. The form used is a wax impregnated concrete pouring form twenty inches in diameter and six-feet tall. The winding length is five feet with the bottom four feet close wound and the top foot space wound to prevent inter-winding breakdown. No external insulating coating was applied. The coil is topped by a thiry inch spun aluminum toroid. This serves as a secondary capacitance and as a load for the secondary coil.

The main control console houses the power input circuitry: the power control circuits, the instrumentation and its support electronics, as well as some of the power noise and safety circuits. The control unit has been built into a nineteen-inch wide by six-feet tall rack cabinet of the type normally used for electronic equipment. The instrumentation, switches and power control variacs are all mounted in the front on standard rack panels. The instrumentation electronics, safety circuits and relays are mounted on chassis in the rear of the cabinet. Power comes in via connectors at the bottom of the user control panels.

The instrumentation used consists of four large switchboard type meters. The first is a zero-to-three-hundred volt ac meter. It monitors the voltage available to the power transformer. The second is a zero-to-fifty ampere ac meter which monitors the current to the power transformer (not the overall current for the unit). Next is a zero-to-ten kilowatt meter which monitors power flow to the power transformer. Between the three of these meters, one can know most of what might be required during normal operation of the coil. Using the volt and ammeters, power in volt-amps can be obtained and compared to the power in watts in order to find the power factor. The latter can be corrected via the power controls. Settings that produce good results can be easily noted and efficiency can be monitored. The fourth meter is an rpm gauge which monitors gap motor speed. This speed can be adjusted to optimize certain efficiency effects associated with gap speed. These instruments are supported by current and voltage transformers in the rear of the cabinet. These transformers supply proportional signals to the instruments without running all of the power through the instruments.