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As the winter months come up, many will be forced to stay indoors… To many, this will mean playing scrabble with grandma, watching television, doing puzzles, and sitting around the house. Why not begin an awesome project to spice up those potentially cold, dreary nights with an amazing light show decoration?

In this instructable, I will detail how you can do just that in creating an Audio Modulated Solid State Tesla Coil. Quite a mouthful isn’t it? For those foreign to the electronics engineering field or who simply just have no clue what “audio modulation” or “tesla coils” are, essentially what this device will do is produce visible streamers of electricity into the air (“lightning bolts”) pulsed at frequencies that correspond to audible tones (the device will “turn on and off” so quickly that the vibrations that the streamers make with the air sound like different notes). As we will see, we can exploit this neat effect to have the device play music and control it from behind a computer. So far, the secrets behind how these devices that sometimes make appearances on tv shows and movies has been kept under wraps and exclusively within the electronics engineering and computer science community or for very dedicated hobbyists putting in hours of research. In fact, for many high classes in elite colleges, n00b engineers would even have trouble making this on their own! This project could also be used to FREAK THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of people on Halloween! This year, I finished the project just in time to have this prop set up to play an eerie tune and trick-or-treaters were mesmerized (goes great to decorate a Frankenstein set).

This project is not for the light-hearted and is very difficult, but when completed, is extremely rewarding (it took me 2 years to learn how to build and finally do it). Not only will one learn loads about electronics and computer science, but simply taking this device to an event or (safely) to a public space rarely fails to produce a crowd of people taking pictures, impressed with your wizardly h@x0rz skills. Certain types of light bulbs or sticks will magically turn on without any wires. Good skills with power tools, machining, carpentry and the like are essential for crowd appeal. You have been warned, however, that there will be much tweaking, experimenting, and required dedication. In addition, be smart when operating tesla coils around sensitive electronics or in areas occupied by many people (basic common sense, I don't think there's much of a need to babble on, but if you are unsure, please work with an experienced engineer).

Step 1: What is a tesla coil?

A tesla coil is a resonant air core transformer system invented by inventor Nikola Tesla in the 1890’s. Originally, tesla coils were designed to broadcast electricity and signals wirelessly, however, several engineering and monetary setbacks prevented the tesla coil from becoming the popular mode of energy transfer, and a power distribution method architecture relying on use of power grid lines (wires/cables) became the prevailing and accepted method. Now, tesla coils are primarily used for short-range wireless power transmission, for lighting up some types of lights, and for presentation/entertainment purposes.

Before going on, it is important to understand the basic functions of the primary components that make up our tesla coil and are used to make it (yeah, I know it’s redundant for most of you and most of you know how these parts work, but this instructable is for people from almost all backgrounds of experience):

Capacitor: Stores electrical energy and then releases it in short pulses (a little bit like a battery).

Transformer: Converts a lower voltage to a higher voltage (but makes output amperage go down) or converts higher voltage to lower voltage (making output amperage go up). Usually consists of coils of wire wound around a chunk of iron. The ratio of turns (how many times wire is wound around compared to other coils on the same chunk) of the coils determines how much voltage is increased our decreased. For there to be an output, a transformer must be fed AC (alternating current). In a tesla coil, the wires are not wound around a chunk of iron (and thus a tesla coil is sometimes called an “air core” transformer). In the tesla coil we will be building, a transformer such as a neon sign transformer is not required!

Transistor: Used for switching signals/voltage on and off. “IGBT” transistors are most commonly used, but require heat sinks.

Operational Amplifier: Used for increasing the amplitude (the “strength”) of a signal.

Tesla Coil Toroid: A metallic (usually made of aluminum) doughnut-shaped object with a small amount of capacitance (acts as a capacitor).

Microcontroller: Like a mini computer that can be programmed to perform a task.

Oscilloscope: Used to view what an electrical signal looks like (voltage over time graph).

Resistor: If put in a circuit it resists passage of electricity much like friction resists the passage of a moving object.

Potentiometer: Acts like a resistor but how resistive it is can be controlled with a little knob.

Inductor: Coil of wire that produces an electromagnetic field when electricity passes through it.

Rectifier: Takes Alternating Current and converts it to Direct Current.

Vector Board/Bread Board: Boards used for prototyping circuits. A breadboard does not require soldering to make connections, parts are just “plugged in.”

Ground: Usually denoted by a green wire, something connected to ground completes a circuit. Think of a lightning bolt moving from a cloud to the ground. In a similar way, electricity in a wire is attracted to and moves towards a ground connection.

Amps: A quantity that helps describe how much energy/power passes through something. Circuits in themselves typically have a limit to the amount of current that can pass through them and no more. A good way to think about it (though by no means is this a “scientific” definition) amperage tells you how concentrated the electricity is. In a welder, for example, amperage is very high because high concentrated energy produces a lot of heat.

Volts: This is also a quantity that helps describe how much energy that passes through something, but what it means for you and me is that it is a way to quantify how readily electricity “jumps” from one spot to another. HIGH VOLTAGE is characterized by the long electronic arcs coming from the tesla coil (typically over 100,000 volts). Electricity coming from the outlets in your house does not behave like this because the voltage is a lot lower (typically around 120 volts). A tesla coil steps the voltage way up, but that doesn’t mean that it just produces energy from nowhere. When voltage goes up, amperage goes down. When amperage goes up, voltage goes down.

Watts: A way to quantify total energy (combined voltage and amperage).

Check here for basic schematic symbols (we will need this later): http://library.thinkquest.org/10784/circuit_symbols.html
The operating principle behind a tesla coil is somewhat simple. Energy is sent to charge up a capacitor or set of capacitors. At a certain point, the capacitors are forced to discharge into the primary coil. When the energy that is stored in the capacitors is sent through the primary coil, a large amount of energy is induced (“sent”) into the secondary coil (alternating current is basically just electricity that changes voltage. When the capacitor fires, voltage changes from essentially zero to something really large in a very short amount of time). Since there are more turns in the secondary coil, the induced energy has a higher voltage, but a lower current than in the primary coil. The capacitors recharge and start this cycle again.

The capacitance of the capacitor and the inductance of the primary coil determine how quickly this cycle occurs per second and is measured in units of frequency called hertz. If a tuning fork vibrates at a certain frequency and another tuning fork that, if you hit it, would vibrate at the same frequency were put near each other, then simply striking one tuning fork would make the other start vibrating too. Why? Because of resonance. Tesla coils can be said to behave similarly; if the frequency of the primary circuit matches the resonant frequency of the secondary circuit, then the tesla coil is optimal, and like a tuning fork, energy will go from one part (the first “fork”/primary circuit) to the other (the second “fork”/secondary circuit).

In the olden days, capacitors would be charged up and a gap of metal would be put to each of the capacitor’s leads. When the capacitor was fully charged, a spark would arc inbetween the gap, thus forcing the energy into the primary coil. After the spark occured, the air inbetween the gap would be ionized. Ionized air acts sort of like a wire; electricity can move freely through it. Until the ionized air dissipated, energy would oscillate (move back and forth) between the capacitor and inductor many times. Instead of using spark gaps, we will be using transistors which are like little switches, but are controlled electronically. Turning the switch on and off quickly at certain frequencies will make the “lightning” coming out of the tesla coil make audible tones.

Keep in mind that even though we are turning the tesla coil on and off at a certain frequency (a certain number of times per second), its primary circuit is still oscillating (energy moving back and forth between the capacitor and primary coil a certain number of times per second) at a different frequency that we will match with the secondary circuit.

I have attached a simplified diagram of the basic way that we will hookup the tesla coil. This instructable is designed to be very flexible and allows for you to be your own designer through giving you the tools and basic knowledge needed to build one yourself from scratch.
<p>hey my Symantec endpoint protector does not want me to open this program called win Tesla5 so i am starting to wonder if this is a virus or not. please reply </p>
<p>i have a pretty good question... can i use a discharge capacitor from a microwave to substitute the other type of capicitors</p>
What is the cost for this project? Also, what safety precautions should be taken/what should I keep away from it?
<p>Is it safe </p><p>Wt r the safety measure should be taken</p>
<p>You really should use a fiber optic between the controller and the driver. If a spark hits the signal line then it could spell bad news for your driver, controller, and even computer. Also the long cord is probably picking up a lot of noise from the lightning, causing the sparks to be very noisy and eventually popping the fuse.</p><p>Also, tuning is a HUGE deal. Make sure the secondary is 5 to 15 % lower frequency than the primary.</p>
<p>You can find DIY kits for mini singing Tesla coils at oneTesla.com. I find that starting with a kit is still a pretty challenging project but gives you a really good place to start rather than scrounging parts from the trash and never really getting anywhere (which applies to most people, though probably not OP!)</p>
This is a great instructable. But the electronics schematics are a bit on the thin side. What's needed is:<br> <br> A) A block schematic, with all the major blocks indicated, and their connections. Okay, you did that on Step 2 Overview. But don't forget to indicate the value for the capacitors used in the final design.<br> <br> B) Each block within the block schematic needs after that its own schematic on a separate diagram. Clearly draw the diagram for the bridge circuit, with all components and all connections, and indicate the value and type of each component that were used in the final version.<br> <br> C) Same for the microcontroller block. I looked and looked and couldn't find the schematic for the microcontroller.<br> <br> D) Same for the rectifier block. This is pretty trivial, but you should do it anyway.<br> <br> E) Then put all schematics together. Block (overview) schematic first, then each part of it with its own detailed schematic. Or leave them separate, on different pages on your instructable, but make it clear which detailed scheme corresponds to which block on the overview scheme.<br> <br> You did everything very well, but I think you probably learned the electronics stuff on-the-fly. Don't get me wrong, I think you did a great job, but just clean up the schematics part of the project. This is not a criticism, it's a suggestion for improvement.<br> <br> Here's another project that is much less thorough than yours in the practical aspects, testing, etc., but the electronics are better explained, see the links to the PDF schematics at the bottom of the page - if you could provide clear, detailed schematics the way they did, yours would be hands-down the best instructable I've seen yet:<br> <br> <a href="http://www.megavolts.nl/en/projecten/tesla-spoelen/153-audio-modulated-solid-state-teslacoil-v2" rel="nofollow">http://www.megavolts.nl/en/projecten/tesla-spoelen/153-audio-modulated-solid-state-teslacoil-v2</a><br> <br> You don't have to provide the schematics in PDF form, it's the idea that matters.<br> <br> Thanks.<br> <br>
He does not provide them because it is not his design, the circuitry minus the midi parts are my design including board layout and all mechanical aspects. I also make the toroids myself. He should be giving credit where credit is due. The design is much better now then it was when this was written. The schematics are all located here on my site. I am still working on more info on how to build them. The boards can be bought through eBay if I have any listed or by sending me an email. <br>My site is here: http://www.hv-obsession.com/#!screamer/cjg9
<p>I wanted to build a tesla coil using your design, but I also wanted to have it play music. Could you explain how I could modify your schematics to incorporate that?</p>
<p>Hi everyone there!</p><p>We Gill Instruments Pvt. Ltd. have a requirement for an engineer with a strong expertise and hands on experience in the field of MSP430. Candidates who are willing to relocate in Bangalore can send us their CV on - ankur@gill-instruments.com.</p>
<p>Hey sorry I know you posted this 2 years ago, but I really wanna make this, but I'm having a hard time understanding some of this, and I have a couple other questions about this...</p><p>If you could give me a quick E-Mail at your earliest convenience that would be great</p><p>hockeystar0710@yahoo.com</p>
<p>Hi, Tesla peeps! Can I use ignition coils of cars instead of capacitors? Can someone help me build one that is in Solid State? I'll be helping my son build his (and mine, as well) first Tesla coil for his Science Project (one that could play .mp3 music from his iShuffle). After which, we could use this on New Year's day &amp; 4th of July. This has to be done on or before December (2014).</p>
No. Ignition coils can be used but they produce very high voltage like 30 kV so stay away from that. Instead for a 4th of July party I would suggest using a fly circuit from an electric fly swatter (tennis racket) or electric bug zapper (the lanterns). These can produce a more suitable 5 kV while still providing a great show.
<p>What gauge wire would be optimal for the secondary coil? I've heard around 24 gauge works well, though I'd probably go with 25, as it's more widely available. Additionally, with the primary, I was thinking something like 1/4&quot; copper coil spaced 1/2&quot; apart (with an archimedes spiral type design). Would this be a practical setup? Any advice?</p>
I used 30 gauge but just make sure your primary is double the diameter, which isn't 15 gauge it's a different scale.
This is really cool! I'm planning on doing this for a school project and have a few questions. How much did the whole project cost? I'm kinda broke so i want to know if it'll be affordable. Also, what's the time frame on this? I have a deadline of 6 weeks. I'll be presenting the whole project and have a reputation of great presentations. I was planning on doing the Doctor Who theme on the coils, with the arcs going to my hands. obviously i'd need some insulated chainmail gloves to keep from getting shocked, are there any other safety precautions i should take? If there are any other pointers or tips i should know, i'd be happy to hear them!
<p>Hey man I know you commented this two years ago my me and a friend want to make one and we were curious if you made your deadline and how it worked for two first timers? You can email me at zain98@gmail.com, you could be a huge help</p>
<p>i wish i could build this. my dad thinks i will blow up the house :(</p>
<p>You really need to put in a full circuit diagram of the whole thing because some of it it is hard to understand, a pictures worth a thousand words as they say. </p>
Great site i never realised you can make a music player from using tesla technology! <br><br>http://how-to-build a tesla-generator.com/
<p>Could you put in a full circuit diagram of the whole thing?</p>
<p>I am trying to build a Tesla coil for a school project and this is my first one. Where did you get all of the parts and how much did it cost?</p>
<p>Most of the components can be found at an online supplier such as Mouser or Digi-key (RS and Farnell if you're in the UK). You can buy magnet wire and even pre-made secondaries on eBay, and stuff for the frame, including the primary, at your local home improvement store.</p><p>I'd estimate it cost a couple hundred dollars. If you want to keep cost and complexity down, try building a spark gap tesla coil.</p>
What are the primary capacitor values?Are the capacitors in the bridge circuit pulse rated and what are the values of those?
I have a very old high voltage driver, and the transformer and high voltage compositor cannot be separated because they're in the same ferrite core. Should I be putting the bridge circuit before or after my driver? I also think it still puts out AC.
dude that is a hell of an instructable! i m pretty sure that a lot of people will appreciate it...thank you for sharing so much of your time and knowledge in such a complete &quot;understandable&quot;...
New meme! 'Scumbag electrical engineer' :D <br> <br>Nothing personal, that picture just strikes me as very funny.
Could you show a schematic of the switch diagram please?
It's probably because I am a technical idiot, but there are large parts of this ible of which I cannot understand. I understand how a Tesla Coil functions, and I understand how the Microcontroller unit system works, but I can't understand exactly how it all goes together. But from what I understand of Tesla Coils, could I build the Tesla Coil described here (http://www.instructables.com/id/Solid-State-Tesla-Coil) and place the Interrupter somewhere between the power source and the control circuitry? Or is there something in the control circuitry that I would replace with an interrupter? What would that be? Where would it go? Where would I get one? (Is it obvious I don't know what I'm doing yet?) Any help on this subject would be extremely helpful. <br>Thanks!
I have two questions regarding the circuit diagram: <br>1. Do you just plug the part that says &quot;outlet&quot; into a wall outlet, or do you need a high voltage source (I dont think that 120 volts on the primary is enough to run the secondary coil at a high enough voltage, or is it?)? <br>2. Do you run the outlet on DC or AC current? <br>
how much does it cost to make?
is there a program like WinTesla for Mac users
I use a program called wine and it can run pc programs in a mac interface buy pressing run now. <br> <br>it is free and available here <br>http://www.winehq.org/ <br> <br>it does not save your progress though and so you will need to start again every time you open it :(
I think this is the first instructable I have comment on but i may be wrong. But I had to comment at least to say thank you. I have been daydreaming about a Tesla coil for quite some time now. But my ultimate goal would be one that can play music. Thanks to this I think this might be within reach. However, because of the high voltage involved I am still a long ways away from doing this and want to learn as much as I can before I begin. Thank you again.
is there any way to modify this set-up to accept a MIDI interface, from something like a computer or electronic keyboard?
Well yes but the problem with the MIDI interface is that it becomes a lot more difficult to get everything running for no reason. Best you use a mono signal coming from you piano or pc for one Solid State Tesla coil (or have two Tesla coils on the left and right for stereo haha). As all the signal coming from the micro controller is an audio signal that you would see coming from a standard pc audio jack.
Is using an MMC capacitor array plausible for this project? they are much more customizeable, and usually cheaper and easier to get resonant
ahhhhhhhh why u no add video of dis badass telsa coil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hey Man, that list if IGBT's is a tad dated. <br> <br>The HGT1N40N60A4D and HGT1N40N60A4 are obsolete and havent been able for 5 years or so. Same goes for the FGH30N6S2. However IXGH60N60C2, HGTG40N60A4 and HGTG20N60A4 are current parts and work fantastic. I highly reccmend any of theose 3. <br> <br>
Yes, but I know someone who had access to these parts even though they are no longer sold (had them around or had access to them at work)
Yes but this is an instructable so if you're giving in instructions people building this might not have access to those parts like you do. Just a thought. <br><br>So this weekend I build a coil using the mini bricks from IXYS. They were 60n60c2d1 and although they do work they aren't as powerful as the fairchild parts and even though they are in the sot-227 package they are still quite a bit weaker. Hands down the HGTG40N60A4 are the best parts you can buy as reasonable prices and they beat the IXYS parts easily without even considering price. <br><br>You still using the boards I sold you? I think if you're going to do midi you should program the controller to decode midi directly from a PC. This is kinda the standard now. Not really into MIDI myself but I have an FM modulated SSTC in the works now. Uses a USB powered audio preamp and equalizer. Sound quality is better than what you get from regular tweeters. Super crisp and loud. <br>
I have been experimenting with many different coils and boards, however, I am moving towards a UAV project now and taking a break from coiling with the culmination of the audio circuit. In the future I will probably code a direct PC decoder, but that will probably be on the backburner for a while
Hmm as for the IGBTs, that is a good idea, I'll add those to the list
Did you ever try making a miniature one?
hey this is a great project and i plan to make my own could you let me know where you got your magnet wire from? thankx
You can get it off Ebay. That secondary is coated with Furniture Epoxy not Varnish. There is a big difference between the two.
dude im sorry you busted your big capacitor you have sorry had one do buy it from that place
Since I already have an arduino, could I use that as the microcontroller for this tesla coil? If so, would I just need to change the coding? Would that work at all?
The type of micro is irrelevant. All that matters is that you supply the correct signal. An Arduino could definitely do that. A bare AVR micro could do that. A Picaxe could do that. Just about any micro currently in production should be able to handle the task.

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Bio: Hello I'm Mad Scientist Trevor Nestor. If you like my instructables see my youtube channel! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCksEFn8xaLP0z4rsiHa9zcA?feature=mhee Email ...
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