Introduction: How to Make a Macro Particle Accelerator

Picture of How to Make a Macro Particle Accelerator

This is an attempt to reporduce Dr. Todd Johnsons demo of a particle accelerator by propelling a coated ping pong ball with electric fields.

What you see is strips of aluminum tape charged and spread out in a bow.l They are used to create electric charges that repeatedly change the charge of a conductively painted  ping pong ball.  This results in a sort of motor that propels the ball around the circumference of the bowl. 

I've heard accelerators like CERN use electric fields, and I've heard they use magnetic fields. I believe I can distuinguish between the two, but I'd be interested in an experts discription of their differences. 
 Imagine my embarassment if I learn here that there is no difference.  Even though everyone knows electromagnetism is a single force, It seems to me that at times it lacks polarity.
Either way, a simple understanding of "likes repel / opposites attract" is enough to see why this machine works.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

You're going to need a

bowl (at least 8' diameter)
aluminum tape (or copper) (aluminum foil and glue, maybe?)
wires with alegator clips ( I've found that large strips of aluminum tape is hard to solder to.)
A large cfl (compact flourescent tube)
a flyback transformer 
a ping pong ball
conductive paint, 
     (I made my own, but I made a poor mix. So I revived my dried out comercial stuff with "goof off." Look here.
 I think these home made recepies are sound though.  look here.  ( )

Step 2:

Picture of

Here I popped open a computer monitor, and located the suction cup on top of the tube.  I then followed it to the big black flyback transformer.  I've cut them out before with sabre saws, but desoldering them is easy if you follow the steps laid out in the pics below.

The capacitors in the crt, as well as the finished flyback will LIGHT YOU UP,  but from what I can gather from experienced sources, your more likely to hurt somebody with your flailing than from the shock itself.  An accedent here probably won't kill you.
That's the best I can do, in good concience.

Step 3:

Picture of

Take apart a cfl.  Attach a couple of massive capacitors.  Polarity probably matters, but I don't know how to tell you to attach them.  I worked through this project with trial and error, (mostly error).
Follow this guys ible.

The cfl doesn't need to be huge.  I had to gear my 65w down for this project.

Step 4:

Picture of
Grab a bowl, and tape it up.  Put a thin cross down, then put 4 smaller strips in the spaces between the bars.  Be careful not to get the strips too close, or an arc will short it out.  Another thing about charging these strips of tape, the charges seem to gather the most at points, like sharp corners.  They are more likely to launch arcs there.  If you round the corners, you can get the strips a little closer together

I had to swing the bowls to get them started.  The strait one in the following video was easier to start out with.  I recommend trying it first.


_Ayy_Lmao_ (author)2017-02-07

can i use a cfl or would a crt be best?

_Ayy_Lmao_ (author)2017-02-07

How do i put it together?

HDKdesign (author)2015-04-09

Does your cfl bulb actually use 65 Watts, or is it a 65W incadescent bulb equivalent?

emcelhannon (author)HDKdesign2015-04-10

I think that one was actual. Get a crt instead. Look up crt high voltage source.

HDKdesign (author)emcelhannon2015-04-10

Do you mean use the CRT instead of just the CFL, or replace the whole Flyback Transformer+ CFL setup?

emcelhannon (author)HDKdesign2015-04-11

the whole set up. .the crt has a flyback in it.

HDKdesign (author)emcelhannon2015-04-12

Thanks for your help! I'll try that today and see if it works. So I connect the HV wire from the CRT to half of the Aluminum strips, and then ground the others?

Pallad (author)2015-03-24


AlvinMaker (author)2010-07-27

That's sweet, i'm going to do one now.

einstienvermin220 (author)2014-10-17

what if i use another type of power supply like and car battery is this comfortable or not please tell me because i can't able to get an computer monitor as you have help me for this purpose

SydneyM (author)2014-10-01

will any flyback transformer work

techno guy (author)2014-04-23

This is cool, I'm making one for a physics class project, but since I can only power the flyback with 12 volts, it's not very powerful, it can only accelerate a particle of aluminum smaller than 3 mm and it's a linear accelerator.

emcelhannon (author)techno guy2014-04-24

Try this for power.!/

rkoolkarni909 (author)2013-09-24

can you please provide me its detailed circuit diagram its urgent

HandyMandyEmily (author)2013-03-05

Hi. Could you possibly give me a step by step instruction. All help is appreciated. Thanks

rfleeman1 (author)2011-10-30

Could you possibly show a circuit diagram of this please?

emcelhannon (author)rfleeman12012-03-10

I'm sorry man. I just can't get to it. I apologies for my poor directions.

emcelhannon (author)rfleeman12011-11-07

I'll work on it.

Brian Wall (author)2011-08-02

could u use a ball bearing instead of ping pong ball

emcelhannon (author)Brian Wall2012-03-10

Negative. Too heavy.

emcelhannon (author)Brian Wall2011-08-12

Negative. It's too heavy.

gabperez (author)2012-01-12

what's the output voltage of flyback transformer and cfl?

emcelhannon (author)gabperez2012-03-10

2 or 3 k.

gabperez (author)2012-02-06

is it okay to use glass bowl?

emcelhannon (author)gabperez2012-03-10

Glass is good.

Jonnybhoy (author)2012-02-17

I would love to do this for my high school physics project but I don't really understand how everything goes together. Is there anywhere that I could find a more step-by-step approach? I appreciate any help I can get with this.

im.rrayitas (author)2012-02-01

hey, why i cant, dowload, the PDF, is very interesant,, please

hg341 (author)2010-12-03

you shoudl make one with a taser

macmaniac (author)2010-11-30

Would I be right in saying this *won't* work with an AC HV supply?

stephenfitton (author)2010-07-31

Answere to( Electric Field) magnetism and (Magnet) Magnetism In an electrical circuit electricity runs on the External Surface creating a magnetic effect. In a magnet the imbalance of the internal elements(Alloyed)makes for a phenonemum whereby electrons and protons are rotationally filling in the( Imbalance Anomally). This is the equivalent of an electric field created internally giving the magnetic effect externally.

An electric field will exist with any point charge (an electron, proton, etc...) which are called electric monopoles, meaning a negative charge can exist separately from a positive. There are also electric dipoles, but there are only magnetic dipoles. So yeah, a permanent magnet will always have a north and south pole (even if you cut it in half) and an induced magnetic field will have a north and south pole (which depends on the direction of the current). Permanent magnets are composed of magnetic dipoles which become aligned and stay aligned this creating an overall magnetic field. But many objects have this capability, its just that their magnetic dipoles are randomly aligned so no net magnetic field is observed. An accelerating charge will create a magnetic field, or b-field. There are two ways (I guess maybe more, but two common ways) to make a charge accelerate: the first is to force charge to follow a non-linear path (such as wrapping a wire around a nail and observing a magnetic field from a current through the wire, as Arano said), or by using alternating current, like that comes from the wall (60Hz), which means the current actually changes direction 60 times in a second.

What of the poles? The electric field doesn't have North/South does it? Isn't it just an excess or defenciency of electrons. Is the magnetic field primarily a result of the charged particles unified orientation, (giving it it's poles)?

Arano (author)emcelhannon2010-07-31

if you have a wire with current on it (hope thats right said) there is en magnetic field shaped like a circle around the wire (with a lot of current you could go around it with a compass and the compass would always point with either east or west towards the wire)

stephenfitton (author)Arano2010-08-02

one would hope but the interferance and speed may bring no result at all.

Arano (author)stephenfitton2010-08-02

i said that more for making clear what i am trying to say

An electric field does have a north south pole as it actually is rotating in its own kenetics is appears undefined, encounter with a steel bar allows it to interact in such a way as Fields North/South defined EG .Coil an insulated wire around a small steel bar put a A,C,D, Cell battery on opposite ends of wire,Connect, Have a compass Handy Read One way connection,Write down, Reverse setup, take reading, You have now answered your question/Maybe. Heres for an extra train of thought as my comments are only made to engage grey matter. (Energy is only created to its surrounding if there is an imbalance-SF)(Status-Quo "for safety purposes only Alkaline batteries to be used,Eg torch-batteries,"

ELHORMIGUERO2010 (author)2010-08-19

I'm trying to reproduce the linear accelerator. I've painted the ping pong ball with silver and I have 8 aluminium strips . Should it work using a solid state tesla coil as high voltage supply??? Thank you very much.

I've never used a tesla coil, but it's worth a shot. I've been useing a crt, (intact) lately. I strip a bare part of the high voltage lead, and connect it to my positive strips. For my negative charge, I clip to the braided wire that wraps around the back of the tube. My crt's cut off as soon as there's an arc, but for this project, you don't want an arc.

Ghost Wolf (author)2010-08-13

Question doesn't this project use A/C? Becuase Tesala made an A/C motor using that concept.

Kinncat (author)2010-08-01

I really hate to say this, but this instructable probably gave me the basis for my new robot army. on a more sane note, I really hadn't thought of using the transformer from a CRT monitor. sure beats the heck out of my home-brew flybacks (boy, those were fun...) so thanks for that. have you tried using the liner accelerator setup you showed wrapped around something like a paper towel tube? might be the basis for a functional demo of the space fountain. would love to see that... anyways, props on the idea as a whole, given me a whole lot to plot about.

emcelhannon (author)Kinncat2010-08-01

Hey Kinncat, Check out this ible... High voltage fence

I tried it this morning, and it worked well.

No cfl necessary, just don't short it out. I did that too and earned a 1.5 inch burn accross my hand, and a ruined curcuit board.  Scared th begeesus out of me.

Kinncat (author)emcelhannon2010-08-07

(bit late) hey, thanks! tried this, works grand! gonna get an instructable up for it soon, I hope. linear "particle" accelerator by paper towel tubes. launch ping pong balls and scare the begeesus out of your cat. what fun!

zfolwick (author)2010-08-07

as a kid I used to take old lamp wires and strip the ends and hold onto them for fun. I dunno why all the fuss about getting shocked... but it's probably something to avoid whenever possible (unless you get off on that sort of thing)

vinacarv (author)2010-07-27

Cool as hell... I imagine how it would behave with some little balls in that bowl instead.

emcelhannon (author)vinacarv2010-07-27

There's and idea. I'll give it a shot. I was thinking of coating some small styrofoam bobbers, but there's got to be something better I can use. There are so many different things to try with this concept. Think marble coaster, and you'll see where I'm headed.

vinacarv (author)emcelhannon2010-07-27

Correct me if I'm wrong, but i think that charge will always distribute itself evenly on the surface of a solid body (high school physics, where are you?). In the first step you say that the ping pong ball gets charged, but it is hollow, with only an external superficial conductive layer, so, maybe, ball bearings will behave the same... try them, why not?

emcelhannon (author)vinacarv2010-08-01

I'm sorry, Father, but the project failed. The ball was just to heavy to be propelled. If you're right about surface charge, then all the inner metal is just dead weight. I also tried a 1/2 styrome bobber. It couldn't maintain "centrifuge?" but rolled around like a Mexican jumping bean.

vinacarv (author)emcelhannon2010-08-03

Interesting... anyways, it was something we kinda expected. When you say "1/2 styrome bobber" you mean half a bobber, a hemisphere, or a 1/2 inch bobber (the mexican bean made me wonder). As always, i'm only shouting ideas here, as i'm too much of a noob to mess with HV, but thinner, much thinner, strips of alu tape should increase the rate that the charged body is pulled/pushed, thus accelerating it more. As for the light yet conductive material i can't think of anything, maybe sanding the pingpong ball the most you can, keeping it as spherical as possible, before coating. Last thought: a smaller sphere have better volume(and weight) to surface area ratio.

emcelhannon (author)vinacarv2010-07-30

I'm on it. I'll let you know how it goes.

About This Instructable




Bio: 42 yrs old, Married out of my league, but I'm holding on. I've got 4 kids that I've managed not to kill ... More »
More by emcelhannon:Road to Freedom from a Teachers Salary and an Employers TyrannyHow to make a macro particle accelerator
Add instructable to: