Ionization Effects of Plasma (Jacob Ladder) With Alcohol and Burning Cotton Balls.

Introduction: Ionization Effects of Plasma (Jacob Ladder) With Alcohol and Burning Cotton Balls.

About: I am a part-time hobbyists biotechnologist with a photonics background. I also have a YouTube channel too. I work part-time too.

Hello, right now I am doing a Jacob ladder project with High voltage (12,000 volts 35 mA) Solid state transformer with fire. The Jacob ladder is a bit dangerous (high risk of lethal electric shock if done incorrectly. No joke about that kind of voltage if you repeat please be careful with the plasma and high voltage.

Alcohol in a ceramic cup (Important) not glass and not metal the high voltage will jump to the metal alcohol burner! So it must not be plastic since any plasma at this voltage or (12 kV) would cause the cup to melt causing a huge fire (Potential to cause your garage to burn down!!). :(

In this Project, I am trying to explain what happens when Cellulose from dry cotton balls, Alcohol (70 percent ethanol), or 70 percent Isopropanol Alcohol or Some other solvents like it are used under a Jacob ladder. The burning vapors of carbon and vaporized cellulose by-products tend to pull the arc of a Jacob ladder down a bit when it in use.

Please note Never use Gasoline, or Methanol these are in my mind dangerous fuels since methanol is very volatile and burns with a nearly invisible flame and Gasoline or Kerosine is too flammable to use. It is dangerous to burn unclean Gasoline or Kerosine.

I thought of testing Propane but here a warning why you should never use Propane tanks--- the tank is conductive and arcing could result in an explosion so stay safe and use these methods I am showing you. :) :)

Step 1: Introduction of Why I Am Doing This Project.

Normally when high voltages above 7000 volts are added to vertical electrodes (Copper, brass or aluminum) the electrodes jump upwards. The air is heated causing the electrode to heat up. When the air heats up the electricity climes due to air which is electrically charged usually around 5000-20,000 volts but Jacob ladders can occur with 500,000 to 1 million volts at the transmission line, etc too.

I am using Alternating Current 60HZs set at 12 kV and 35 mA. It a Solid state transformer since they are new and cheaper (slightly) and are grounded and have a trip wire. However, putting a load on a solid state transformer damages the IC circuit that trips damaging the IC and killing the transformer. I have in the past put in parallel a potassium chloride linden capacitor (Non-electric) the plasma and arcing were 10 cm but this quickly in 6 hrs of use burned out the GFI circuit destroying a 150 dollar transformer.

I am working with temps at -5 to -10 deg Celcius but it shielded and the temps of a transformer only get damaged at -25 deg C and colder. However, my future runs are done inside with lots of warnings and safety while the transformer and the electrical system is turned on! A Red light tells people outdoors that my Device is ON!!

Note colder temps can seriously affect the performance of the transformer even at 0 to -5 deg C I had issues with the Jacob ladder not working very well. It works much better at 20 deg C.

I want to observe what happens when a flame is put under a Jacob ladder. Will the arcing push upwards or will the Jacob ladder have trouble containing the arc (the arc pulls downwards as flames and fumes hit the electrodes).

My electrodes are thick aluminum.

Step 2: Very Important Safety With High Voltage and Chemicals Involved.


DANGER - THERE IS A SERIOUS RISK OF ELECTROCUTION WITH HIGH VOLTAGE. 12 Kv and 35 ma power equal around 2.5 Amps of current if it touches the skin. It causes burns and anything past 30 mA can paralyze you. DC a lot worse since it quick pulses and it faster rep rate. I am working with AC only tho I have High voltage diodes to generate 12 kV DC. I choose not to do this.

Anyway, 2.5 Amps or so through the heart if it 100 percent can destroy the tissue and cause instant death. Also, the electricity can cause arterial and ventral fibrillation which can have serious and dangerous adverse effects on your heart. If you have a pacemaker or heart disease I advise on doing any projects with High Voltage. In fact, the Electromagnetic pulses that are generated can destroy a pacemaker resulting in death!

You have to completely aware of your environment and don't do it if you are tired.

Some electronics may be affected by plasma close up or even be destroyed!

There is also fire hazards with igniting alcohol and cotton swabs. I thought of using propane but it conductive and an arc could cause the propane tank to explode so don't even think of doing that. I have taken Photonics, biotech, etc and have lots of training with high voltage and I even say that is too dangerous to risk.

Acetic acid at 98 percent is very corrosive and can cause blindness if splashed into eyes wear gloves and safety gear (apron, gloves (I am wearing neoprene type) so that quite good. Work in a well-ventilated area too. Citric acid 100 percent is corrosive and just like acetic acid can cause blindness if splashed into eyes.

Step 3: Materials Required and Chemical Prep for Plates.

Here are the mandatory materials (Supplies including lab stuff and chemicals to clean dirty electrodes - if they get oxidized by ozone and burned material for long periods of time.

High voltage transfromer 12 kV - Min 10,000 v 30 mA.
Really thick alligator clip wires Bricks Aluminum (Hard type) electrodes 2 cm width, 10 cm Length 0.1 cm thickness. Support stands for Lab material plus professional clamps. Lab clamps.

Ceramic cup small one.

Cotton swabs

Glass beads or boiling chips glass to slow down the ignition rate of the flame.

Ethanol 70 percent, 95 percent ethanol, 70 percent Isopropanol alcohol or 99 percent Alcohol in swabs.

Optional for cleaning electrodes..... IGNORE IF YOUR ELECTRODES ARE BRAND NEW.

Aluminum electrodes--- 5 percent by mass or 1-mole Acetic acid. I am using 100 percent acetic acid to make a 15 percent solution and I am also adding 5 g in 2 L of citric acid (it may not be enough). Don't use concentrated Hydrochloric acid (31.45 percent) or 72 percent sulfuric acid they are dangerous and can eat the metal too quickly. Using hot water scrub the plates in the solution and wash with water then scrub again and clean them again.

Steel wool is useful to wear gloves, goggles and or face shield for this. As steel wool is very abrasive.

Wearing good gloves for cleaning electrodes that dirty takes about 5 percent acetic acid or get 100 ml of acetic acid and add 5 g in 2 L of citric acid to cleanse the material.

2L times 5 percent X = 98 percent times.
9.8 ml in 2 L. 9.8 ml concentrated acetic acid.

Preparing a Hot solution of Sodium percarbonate 2Na2CO3* 3H202.

Wear PPE (gloves, Neoprene gloves, goggles, Apron (Rubber) and maybe a face shield. Sodium percarbonate is fairly exothermic and reactive due to the Hydrogen peroxide being released. It helps create trace oxides of aluminum and other oxides and then it can be ground down with steel wool after it been washed with small towels.

Never use Plastic use glass that can tolerate 80 degrees C to near boiling since it can attack plastics especially if hot. Wearing gloves put the Aluminum electrodes into the solution right after the acid bath (washed off with Hot water from a tap). Let it soak for 30 minutes, carefully to prevent dripping wash it off with water and put the aluminum electrode back into the basic solution.

You can use Brass, or copper pipes as electrodes too. These are other options.

Step 4: Theory Behind the Project.

What happens when a flame is added under a Jacob ladder? The Jacob ladder creates soot and carbon dioxide and some carbon sublimes. I am not sure a flame is

a plasma but it positive charge of CO2 pulls down the plasma. If a flame is a plasma then the Jacob ladder would be pulled down? Plasma is the air in this case electrons jumping from a lower state to a higher state. Plasma is typically a positive charge if it was negative the electricity would not arc being repelled.

The high voltage ionizes the air making it conductive. So where does the flame come into this? The CO2 is slightly negatively charged pulling down the plasma. When the flame dies down the Jacob ladder slowly starts jumping upwards! No longer is there a charge to keep the Ionized air from the plate. Also, ethanol and cellulose byproducts would probably have an effect on the flame too.

If you put a candle near a spark gap or a Jacob ladder it pulls inwards saying that negative charge of the flame pulls the plasma downwards. The smoke too can be seen with higher voltages.

To comprehend what happening with magnets and flames (electric magnetic fields) and flames please see these videos below.

Here the first video explaining the theory of my Project.

How magnets affect flames. Well, a Jacob ladder not a high powered magnet but it creates a magnetic field when it is Operational. Thus the magnetic field of AC, as well as the ozone and charged oxygen with a flame pull down the plasma arc.

See these videos and the videos I posted through youtube.

Step 5: Setting Up the Project With the Transformer and Clamps.

The main use of the transformer is to create a meaningful Arcing of a Jacob ladder. A clean bench with bricks and stable bench must be used. Keep in mind do not put on any metal base (like Landry drier as what I could have used) to dangerous short circuit of high voltage. It could very easily make the surface (Conductive).

Keep anything thing flammable away from the arcing Jacob ladders.

Setting up the transformer.

Use a Three prong Circuit breaker device that can trip in case there is short. A solid-state device also has a GCFI that will trip if any wire touches or short circuits. I am using bricks to keep the wires from touching wires.

Also, the lab stand device is being used to keep bricks over the wires so that they don't ever touch the steel plate. Old books are being used to keep the transformer and for safety, the transformer is being kept on bricks.

Bricks on a table are upright and the wires are Insulated and kept in the holes of the bricks. This acts as support and insulation since they are heavy! Ensure that the wires don't touch the clamps and rod to avoid potentially dangerous arcing between the wire and burning out the wire. Plasma and heat, if not done properly, can irreversibly damage good expensive wire! See the pictures to give you an idea of what to do here.

Also, the clamps must NOT have any plastic prongs on them they will quickly (in seconds) burn and catch on fire. You have to remove the prongs first!

Step 6: Ethanol at 70 Percent and Isopropanol 99 Percent for Cotton Balls Flame Test.

Add carefully 70 percent of ethanol (fresh if possible) to cotton swabs in a ceramic cup. Place the cup right under the electrode. Make sure you have a metal lid with prongs to take out the flame (Never leave that flame unattended).

Using a lighter for BBQ set the cotton swabs on fire. Activate the switch be no were near the conductive path.

99 percent Isoproponal alcohol protocol.

Pour in 25 ml max into 4 cotton balls into the ceramic cup. Push the cotton swabs down to observe the results better and ignite the flame with a BBQ ignitor.

Step 7: Results of the Cotton Balls Compared to Flame and Alcohol.

Obviously, it would be better with some better fuels but I was limited in the cost of getting the alcohol and location.

So far the cotton swabs with 25 of 99 percent isopropanol Alcohol worked the best pulling down the flame a bit. I tried not showing with glass beads to create more soot and flame to observe if the plasma would pull down faster and be inhibited a bit greater.

It did not. The second best one was (Plasma) was the cotton swabs in slight ethanol aged but the Isopropanol alcohol 25 ml worked the best.

The theory that convection of heat would cause an abnormal flame the plasma pulled down by the ethanol, isopropanol when burned with a negative charge due to ozone ionizing the oxygen by high voltage.

It a cool design and maybe I will test it in the future with better solvents Outside tho.

Final thoughts

The electric magnetic field possibly of the flame pulled down by a negative charge of cellulose, ethanol and other alcohols were interesting concept tho. I had some fun and painfully difficult design of aligning the electrodes and keeping the wires on bricks to help prevent fires (electrical type)- important was a good effort.

It mostly Physics, electronics, and fire (flames properties that are the principle here.). Oh with those big flames the soot may eventually with water or soap be carefully cleaned off and cleaned again. Then dried and allowed to air dry.

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