Electricity had long been discovered in the 1800s, so it was not considered a novelty at the time of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). People have already learned techniques of storing, enhancing, and were beginning to evolve ways of transmitting electrical current. Then in 1891, the Tesla coils were introduced.

Tesla coils are high-frequency transformers that can produce very high voltage with low current. Tesla created several variations of these transformers. But how do these coils work?

How Do Tesla Coils Work?

According to LiveScience, the Tesla coils' power source is attached to the primary coil, that acts like a sponge and soaks up an electrical charge. The primary coil is usually made of copper as it is a good conductor of electricity. This means that it can withstand massive charge and huge surges of current.

The capacitor then builds up too much charge breaking down the air resistance in the spark gap. Electric current is squeezed out of the capacitor down to the primary coil creating a magnetic field. But it is easily collapsed by the massive amount of energy and generates electricity in the secondary coil.

The voltage between the two coils creates sparks, and the energy moves back and forth between the primary and secondary coils so fast and builds up in the second coil and capacitor. The electric charge in the secondary coil will eventually become so high that it breaks free in the form of a spectacular electric current show.

The high frequency of voltage from the coils can power several fluorescent bulbs without using any wires. In a perfectly designed Tesla coil, the whole process starts over again when the secondary coils reach its maximum charge, and the device becomes self-sustaining.

However, in a real-life setting, that does not happen because Tesla coils will eventually run out of energy as the heated air in the spark gap pulls more energy from the secondary coil. That is why the secondary coil must be hooked up to an outside power source.

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Principle Behind The Tesla Coil

The principle behind the Tesla coil is called resonance, or as Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as the "vibration of large amplitude in a mechanical or electrical system caused by a relatively small periodic stimulus of the same or nearly the same period as the natural vibration period of the system."

In other words, this happens when electricity from the primary coil is transferred to the secondary coil at the right time to maximize the energy in the secondary coil. It is like pushing someone on a swing to make it go as high as possible.

Tesla coils can create astonishing lighting displays and sometimes played with music because of the adjustable rotary spark that allows the operator to control the voltage of the current it produces.

Though Tesla does not have any practical use anymore, its concept has revolutionized how electricity was understood and used. The best examples of Tesla coil variations today are the radios and televisions.

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