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Experiments

Building a gun from the handheld Tesla coil gun

 Tesla coil gunRob Flickenger was browsing through a bookstore situated in Seattle near his home last year when he came across a novel with the title, The Fists of Science. The novel told a story of a crime fighter, Nikola Tesla who had used a handheld Tesla coils to fight his enemies. The Tesla coil was designed with transformers that released electricity in form of spectacular streams, releasing them into the air. To the 37 years old Flickenger, the gun was very inspiring as well as hilarious and it left him thinking of how he would do it.

Flickenger had his own home made lighting machine, a huge motorized Nerf gun, which he wished that it would look as cool as the Tesla coil he had found in the novel. He was assisted by Rusty Oliver at an industrial arts studio called the Hazard factory, and was able to come up with a version of the plastic toy made of aluminum. He melted down scrap metals after collecting cans and even bicycle fender. With the help of Rusty Oliver, they created cast of the Nerf gun from clay and sand and poured in the aluminum that was in molten form. Flickenger then milled the metal that was in excess from the inner area by use of a CNC machine, that is after the molten mixture hardened. Then, using a rotary tool he cleaned up the edges.

Flickenger designs wireless infrastructure for some developing countries. He had trained himself the physics of high-voltage electricity which were offered freely from MIT through online courses. He had also in the past experimented the Tesla coil . However, his new model that was handheld brought up new challenges though at the same time gave him an added advantage over Tesla. This is because, according to him, their Chinese power tool were really cheap. To power a gun, it would be more than enough to use an 18-volt lithium-ion drill battery.

Generating high voltages safely from the gun’s circuitry was the real hurdle that Flickenger was faced with. At one time, he had wound a copper wire that was conductive, around acrylic tubing. He wound it 1100 times but later realized that the tubing would break easily as it was too fragile. He attained mixed results from his earlier tests. His major priority was safety and so he initially used a remote switch to control and activate the gun. To prevent firing the gun accidentally, he later fixed a toggle with an arm-the-missile-type plastic hood. He now plans it to resemble the cartoon version which uses a trigger as it is usually either on or off.

At his wedding reception that was held his friend’s property, Flickenger first showed it off. This is after the gun could work and operate safely. His guest were just more than delighted as he showed a corona discharge that came off at the front of the gun. He was quoted telling how beautiful it was. However, the gun is more popular at most parties it was suitable for fighting crimes.

Building a Tesla gun would cost approximately $800. The time for the whole construction of the gun is around 9 months. In relation to power, the current flows into a cap of PVC pipe that has been filled with silicon from what Flickenger refers to as the hockey puck of doom. The current inside the gun is repeatedly doubled by a transformer obtained from an old television. The current is then pumped into a capacitor bank. The gun finally fire when the six capacitors holds 20,000 volts. In order to preserve electrical components, Flickenger has tested silicon mixed with hexagonal boron nitride which plays the role of drawing the heat away.

On reaching 20,000 volts, the current is powerful enough to pass through the gap between two wires made of tungsten placed inside the aluminum gun. Since there was not a housing that could handle such strong power, he built his own porcelain that was heat resistance and also fitted an old computer’s fan to assisting in cooling.

The current then goes to the primary coil which induce current to the secondary coil. This current floods the wires creating magnetic fields inducing electric field at the gun’s nose. Out of these induction, streaks of blue lighting are generated. This explains why he mostly operates the gun with the lights of in his lab. Due to the lethal amount of current generated, Flickenger usually sets it on the work bench rather than hold it itself. For safety reason, he has to avoid being the fuse in the whole circuit.