Plasma (superheated atoms stripped of their electrons) generators are cool to look at and if used correctly, you can make some plated materials that may be useful for making colored metals or metals with different properties. Although, as there is a vacuum chamber involved, you can also use this project for removing air bubbles from resin and do some other rather cool experiments. Be prepared to spend some money, however, this is not cheap. There will be two sections in this tutorial, the first one being the vacuum chamber and necessary tools and equipment and the second being the power supply. There will be areas in this project that have leniency to what materials you can use. Also, most tools you either already have or can be picked from local stores if you are willing to take on this project.
PS* This project will not have step by step pictures or videos since this project has a high price, I cannot recreate it.
Step 1: Collecting Materials
This step may take some time, so if you plan to have this done by a certain date, start at least a week early as there will be lots of troubleshooting in seals and getting some equipment and materials.
Vacuum Chamber, Needed Materials:
- A rather spherical glass jar or glass container, this is the main part of the vacuum chamber, I used a 6" diameter glass clock display made for old clocks, they come in around 20$-50$ depending on the size you want.
- Strong plastic, this will be difficult to find at a cheap price, the bigger the container the stronger you will need, with a 6" glass, I used 1/2" industrial grade plastic, there was no flex (this is important because if there is, it will not seal properly) The size requirements is to be 1in larger in X and Y axis, this is to allow the seal to have overlap outside the chamber. (This base needs to be square to mount the legs).
- Brass fittings, depending if you want to fill the chamber with other gases, you will need a T joint with (1/2" is a good size) and two valves and depending on your connections from the pump, you might need certain adapters. If you do not have a gauge, you might want one, it can be added onto the hose leading to the chamber.
Silicon, corn starch, and food coloring are needed to make the seal... this seal was actually made by The King of Random and works well for cheap. Their Idea, not my own...
- Thread seal/ lock, I used a liquid soft dry seal for this, others will work.
- JB weld, this could work for thread lock but I used this for a high voltage pass-throughs, this is optional if you go with it.
- If you want to create the plasma generator or just have power pass-throughs, you will need a threaded rod and at least 8 bolts that fit the rod. The whole rod will not be used if it longer than 4". The rod I used was 5/16".
- Long bolts, this is necessary if you go with this design, as everything is mounted underneath the glass chamber, It needs to be held up... These are the legs of the chamber. There is an exception if you decide to have a flat bottomed jar, you can just set it on the base of the jar.
- Finally, one of the most important thing, the vacuum pump, I would suggest getting an electric one, I used a Pittsburgh 2.5cfm electric vacuum pump that could reach 75 microns. I tried others that were both handheld and one that used a compressor, neither of which worked. If there are leaks as well, leaving it on, those leaks would not affect you if they are small enough.
Step 2: Building the Base
This is the most complicated part of the vacuum chamber, stay with me. (Picture is the completed project)
So you have collected all the materials... Now make sure you have the tools: A drill with several sizes of bits(1/8", 5/16", 7/16") and one 1/2" tap (threader), saw, grinder, and bolt cutter.
You will begin by cutting the plastic base with one more inch in both directions (6in diameter chamber then 7" by 7" square). You might want to sand down the edges if you are using a rough saw. After you cut out this base, there will be 7 holes, 1 in each corner (5/16") and 3 in the center with the most central being the 7/16" and the other two being 1/8". The center hole then is tapped with the 1/2" tap. The brass fittings were fitted together the way I intended them to be for what I was doing. Two valves on either of a T joint and a barb on one side (all sealed with the liquid sealer). After which, I screwed it into the center hole (making sure I used the sealer here too). If this completes your base, you can move along. For the legs, I just threaded two bolts, one first, inserted it into the hole and then the second. Then for the pass-throughs, I cut some threaded rod (1.5" - 2") with the bolt cutters and shaved it down until I could easily screw and unscrew a bolt. I then, using the same method for the legs, placed one bolt on (along with the mixed JB weld to seal it) and inserted it, placing the second bolt on with JB weld, I repeated it again on the other hole and it was done. The base is complete.
Step 3: Connecting to the Pump
You will want a vacuum gauge to make sure you reach the full vacuum necessary for this project. You might need other adapters for this portion, it varies on the actual set up. I used an automotive gauge that had two valves and gauges, one for pressure and the other for vacuum. You will want to do this before you make the chamber as this is used for the creation of the seal of the chamber.
Step 4: Vacuum Chamber
After choosing your jar, you will need three materials, two of which might be in your kitchen or in the cooking section at Walmart... Corn starch and food coloring. The other is Silicon (#1 at 100%... others will not work). First, you mix the silicon in something disposable with the food coloring. You will need at least half of the silicon tube, possibly more or less depending on the jar/ dome diameter... (6" diameter used half...) Next, you pour it into a bowl of corn starch, mix well and quickly... It sets in about 10 minutes... Roll the dough like silicon and place around the base of the glass chamber, press in about a half inch up the glass. You will place this chamber with the seal on the plastic base, create a low vacuum (5inhg on the gauge) to make the seal flat, leave it for 10 minutes. When the time is up, gently pull it off the base.
PS* You might redo this if the 'proto-putty' dries too fast.
Step 5: Power Supply
The Power Supply varies on what you can do for it. But keep it equal to or above 2000 volts, I used a 10000-volt transformer that my dad had turned into a Jacob's Ladder... It was not ideal as it was not DC and I did not have the diodes necessary for what I preferred, however, it did produce some plasma. Be careful when you use these transformers, they can kill you if you are not careful around them.
Somethings you can use for the source (above 1000 watts for better results or any at all): microwave transformers, oil furnace ignitors (what I used), Tube TV transformer (from the electron emitter). You will probably want to get a set of diodes rated for the output of the transformer you use along with a capacitor, this is to make it into DC instead of AC. The reason for this is that since Plasma is stripped of all electrons, it is considered positive, meaning that it can be confined to a negative terminal which would be placed in the center.
This may take time and may cost money if you order it, ask appliance repair shops or your neighbors for a broken microwave, you might get it for free. There are plenty of retrieval videos on youtube for removing the transformer. There are also videos on making a full bridge rectifier for this project.
You will want high voltage wire above the rating of your transformer, if you don't, they could arch and cause a short circuit.
Note that, whatever the wattage is of the transformer, divide it by the voltage to get the amperage output. This will help in finding the right diodes for your transformer.
Step 6: Assembling and Testing
For assembly, connect the pump to the vacuum chamber using the hose, along with the high voltage wires, I connected them by soldering a bolt connector to it so I could remove it if I wanted too. This was done on both sides. I then connected one side to the power supply. This completed assembly.
After everything was connected, I turned on the vacuum and the power supply. Warning: If you do this project, there are multiple dangers: Implosion from the vacuum chamber, Extreme UV light Radiation (If wires are too close together), or Open High voltage terminals. You need to be careful using and doing this project.
This is an entry in the
Epilog X Contest