Picture of Giant Fresnel Lens Deathray: An Experiment in Optics
So you don't have access to your own rail gun or military space laser....but never fear, we'll use the 1000 Watts/m2 of free sunlight in your backyard! But how?

....A 13 square foot magnifying glass!

Seriously. A solid glass lens that size would be silly, but instead we can use a 4 foot wide Fresnel lens. You know, those clear, flat things with the ridges, you find them on overhead projectors and rear windows on some buses? The idea is pretty simple: a Fresnel lens is just a normal curved lens chopped into thousands of little rings, but just as effective.

The Project
This instructable (my second) chronicles my progress over the last month or so on this Fresnel deathray. Each step was figured out in real time, but the general idea is this: once you have your giant Fresnel lens, all that remains is to build a frame to keep it straight, and hold perpendicular to the sun. While you can stop here and enjoy the blinding energy of the nickel-sized spot you get at the focus, I went further and attempted to collimate the light into a straight beam. I ordered a focusing lens online and constructed a scaffold to hold it in place, but ultimately found the Fresnel lens to have imperfections standing in the way of proper functionality.

Disclaimer: This device is extremely dangerous, and will INSTANTLY set things on fire! It's extremely cool, but I'm not responsible for anything that happens if you decide to ignite yourself, your house, the forest, or anything else. Also, if you decide to skip the eye protection step, I hope you like braille.
1-40 of 299Next »
stuffdone2 years ago
I took apart an old projection set about a year ago and just stashed the parts for eventual toy's. The one I had used three CRT's, Three hefty projection lenses and a front surface mirror ( which a friend broke! ). Lot of other stuff like a blower and hoses used to keep the center tube cool, the screen and lots of other parts of various types.

No fresnel in this type. I am looking for things I can do with those monster lenses.

I am sure I could put my smart phone in the right spot and have a large screen phone but since I cannot use touch screen that way, the only point would be to make a holder for the phone and perhaps use it to watch streaming movies on the wall in a dark room. ( But then I have HD TV for that too ! )

Any other good ideas to use them?

I find myself in the same situation! I was lucky in that the RCA I found sitting on the curb awaiting the guys in orange plastic suits had a Fresnel lense. I, as usual, salvaged the whole thing. I held up one of the three projection lens to my wicked lazer (the brand name, believe it or not) and it made the beam much larger, the point now being a perfect circle of light. But, like you, I am sure something really cool can be made from these things. Is there any way to safely get the concave one out of the tube??

Here is image of one of the lenses. All three same. They include the aluminum mounting flange that mated to the front of the CRT. Weigh 8LB each. About 5" Dia. Overall assembly is about 8.5". Lens screws in/out to focus.
Projection TV Lense.jpg

Where I can see this coming in handy is in the use of a water/glass heat-sink/storage in a greenhouse to maintain temps during sub-freezing nights, and with very little effort.

husey7510 months ago

Loving the instructions. Forgive me if I sound like an idiot... but I know nothing about lenses or x-ray lenses inside these TV's. Should concern be given to the warning label on the smaller lenses in the aluminum casing inside the tv I tore apart?


x-rays are only generated when the device is powered, because it uses an electron gun powered by high voltage. make sure to discharge everything before touching any metal part or you could die! crt's store lethal charges inside during a long time

VXRickXV6 months ago

What I find exiting is the idea of melting silver or gold for casting jewelry without having to spend money on gas and or oxygen tanks. Another great idea would be firing precious metal clay(PMC) with this! Look it up. I'm sure you'll find something fun to make. They even make a copper version which is a lot cheaper.

amartinbishop6 months ago

Has anyone tried an expander lenses coupled with a corrector lense? This is typical with "lasers"


John S7 years ago
It may not work on a solar panel but it it should enhance the efficiency of the passive solar heater I have been thinking of building to help heat my house. By building a metal frame with soda pop cans stacked inside and a clear front and mounting a lens like this in front of the glass front I should multiply the amount of heat collected from the air flowing past the stack of solar heated aluminum cans. I just realized it would only be in focus a small part of the day since the solar heater box will be mounted on the south wall of my house. Still it shouldn't hurt anything. I might have to make the back of the box out of heaver metal.
Be careful with that, Aluminum melts at 1200 F... (Copper at 2000, and it _destroyed_ the penny) It could well work if it's not in perfect focus, just be careful and don't burn a hole in your house. Though, a well designed solar furnace to melt metal would be awesome. If I can find one of those lenses anywhere, I'll see what I can do, and if it works, post an instructable.
that was a similar idea that i had. use fresnel lens to heat metal ffor forging and smelting. no need for coal or wood. just stick the metal bar under the light for a few seconds and then continue forging. i've heard of parabolic mirrors being turned out of alluminum (lathed.) why? it would be simpler to just take molten metal and pour it on on a spinnin disk. the liquid metal would take a parabolic shape, and you would not need an insanely large lathe to make it. i'm seeing 12 foot mirrors made with an old car motor.
please elaborate on your pouring molten metal on a spinning disc idea, whichever way i picture this, i always end up with molten metal being thrown out from the edges of your parabolic shape towards faces, via inertia and gravity.
the disk would have to have edges.... like a pie pan shape. my comment does sound kind of silly, doesnt it?

I would agree. Molten aluminum poured on a spinning round disc more like a cake tin (perpendicular edges) than a pie tin (angled edges). It would push most the molten metal to the edges and give a curved shape. The speed would still need to be controlled enough to spin the metal to the edges enough to make the curved shape but slow enough not to spin it all to the sides or out of the mold. But a 12 foot parabolic mirror would be easier made from an old satellite dish than spinning molted aluminum.

lol its algoods, it just sounded like an alarming methodology, with the oversimplification on a site full of people ready to follow instructions down to the letter. and yeah i think they are used in certain telescopes or something, mercury mirrors, i think that when you're getting close to 12 feet its trickier to control the depth of the curve precisely via the speed of rotation because of all the stuff to do with the fluid dynamics and inertia and friction and suchlike. would be fully awesome to use a fluid mirror to reflect energy to heat a boiler that powers a steam turbine that drives a generator that charges a battery which drives the motor for the mirror as well as a surplus charge.
..... if only that was possible. ... also, for all you 'down to the letter' people, please look at my user name. my ideas usually are dangerous even with COMPLETE instructions.
well i must admit, the fun is usually directly proportional to the danger.
Thats some intense heat.
You could purpose that heat for electricity in 1 of 2 ways.
Stirling engine, Steam turbine !!
Both of these ideas have been done. There's a Youtube user called GREENPOWERSCIENCE that has posted videos of these in action. He plays with all kinds of solar. In his most recent video, he cuts a beer bottle in half by lightly scoring it, then using a small parabolic mirror to stress the glass. It's neat.
i found a source of the lenses. craigslist. search for rear projection tvs. most are free for the haulin, and over 55 inches. start the burnin!
Yes . I got 2 from curbside garbage also. Right now with black friday ,these things are all over the place like old CRT's . Maybe there should be a mandate to collect these lenses for 'green' industrial use ,or ship to 3rd world countries for use.

I wonder if the lens from old seeing glasses could also be used for the focal lens in a pinch .
citymilko1 year ago

Just wondering, wouldn't the focusing lens melt when placed a the focal point of the Fresnel. Thanks.

no, because it is transparent and does not absorb light. The only way light energy becomes heat energy is when it interacts with an object that absorbs light, converting the light to heat. that's what happens when you put an opaque object in the path of this solar death ray. Now, if you have a poor quality, plastic lens with impurities, that will probably absorb some light and might get hot, possibly melting if it's a really crappy lens. Stick with glass lenses and you'll be fine.

Wow! I have to say that this is one of the best examples of what I hope for from and instructable! You've done a great job with the explanation of the scope of the project, the theory, learning from mistakes, and a good summary. Really well done step-by-step directions too. I work in a science museum and often need to explain the way that optics affect light - your examples are so well done! Thanks also for the reference link to the Java apple about optics. Keep up the great work, and thanks for sharing this!

Jan_Henrik1 year ago

NICE! I love this Instructable!!

jkimball made it!1 year ago

I followed this instructable pretty closely, and can confirm that it works exactly as advertised. My lens does not focus as finely as DrSimons, nor have been able to mount a second focusing lens, but it easily gets hot enough to ignite lumber, fry eggs, or boil water in just a few minutes.

crockman12 years ago
i have been using welding glasses and now im ordering some of these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cobrandcard/marketing.html/ref=cobrand_ch_t1_huc_40_mr?pr=conplcc&inc=plccgatefomgc&ts=cbuvwuwiaylwkym2wb4yadu6yjs965y&flavor=EXCFIN&plattr=math&ad=PL10&place=huc&imp=A183TY2Y75EU1Uhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/cobrandcard/marketing.html/ref=cobrand_ch_t1_huc_40_mr?pr=conplcc&inc=plccgatefomgc&ts=cbuvwuwiaylwkym2wb4yadu6yjs965y&flavor=EXCFIN&plattr=math&ad=PL10&place=huc&imp=A183TY2Y75EU1U

im gonna tape a pair to a string on my fresnel and pass the rest out when doing a demo. also it might work if you use a mylar space emergency blanket taped into a circular construct around the focal point to shield the radiation because of the aluminum just put tape on the back of a space blanket and make it into a circle and beam the light into the center of that
ezetuloveth2 years ago
what an interesting webpage can i view this from portal.unn.edu.ng
sleepydog2 years ago
Great job! The build detail, thought process and references are outstanding. I'm working on a related project and this helps me immensely. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your work.
FirstSpear3 years ago
OK, the big electricity companies will poo poo it, but I'm thinking that this could be a cheap approach to desalination by condensation. The steam could simultaneously be used to supply the water vapour, and also spin a generator to pump cold sea water through the condenser in one swell foop. Stopping at night is irrelevant as the output is storeable.

Love this site, and its participants.

Deadalus5 years ago
Were you ever able to work out the problem with the secondary lens ?  It ,may be that some form of lasing element would work.  The guts of small laser pointers which are almost free may be worth trying.
Trying to be nice here, but what part of physics and engineering are you actually basing this comment upon?
This would be awesome with bugs crawling everywhere.
Bersa4 years ago
Just a, maybe wrong, idea: what about adding a reverse Fresnel lens (as small as the focusing) at the focusing point? Won't it reverse the light in a straight path (concentrating the light)?
spamattakky4 years ago
Did you see the article where the Israelites concentrated the beam into a glass fiber optic cable and was able to use in in surgery?

Ev5 years ago
Here's how I found the focal point...  Get a trigger pump type of fluid sprayer, either a glass cleaner sprayer or you can buy empty plant misting devices at a hardware store. Put the lens in the sun and spray water behind the lens. You'll see the rays converge and diverge. I guess you could measure it with a metal tape. 

spamattakky Ev4 years ago
I really like the misting idea, would be great in demonstrations with my Fresnel lens cooker.
spamattakky4 years ago
I use a regular polarized sunglasses and wear the Real circular polarized 3D glass in front of the other pair, they darken up quite nicely and I always have sunglasses on when you lift the Real to undarken you view. This is the only way for the two polarized glasses will work, put them in any other order or angle and it will not get any darker.

Polarized lens are so cool to work with.
cacci4 years ago
What type of glasses are recommended for a fresnel lens? Would these be adequate? Please answer only if you actually know, I would prefer to keep the remainder of my eyesight.

DrSimons (author)  cacci4 years ago
Firstly, I don't have much formal welding training and I can't tell you the specific ratings to look for. What I can tell you is that I used goggles designed for gas welding (ie oxyacetylene), and I still saw a lot of vision spots after staring at the focal point for a little while. It depends a lot on how much exposure you get. If you really want to be able to stare continuously at it, go with something rated for arc welding. Usually you can't see anything through these other than the actual bright spots. The goggles in your link definitely aren't dark enough for that, they're definitely better than nothing.
1-40 of 299Next »