A modern version of an 1892 method of transmitting electrical power was recently
constructed by a Central Michigan University junior and displayed at Central's Science
Wallace Kern, Frankenmuth junior, completed the apparatus as a senior research project
under the supervision of Kenneth Wright, physics instructor.
The original experiments with the high voltage, high frequency apparatus for transmitting
electrical power to consumers were made by Dr. Nikila Tesla. Dr. Tesla's experiments
were successful in that power was transmitted, but the method was found to be inefficient,
partly because of the difficulty of achieving proper insulation.
Similar in construction to a radio transmitter, the apparatus has a peak voltage
output of about 150,000 volts at the top of its porcelain insulated coil and is tuned
to approximately 500 kilocycles. Since electrical currents at this frequency travel
on the conductor's surface, it is difficult to prevent radio waves from radiating
along the coil.
Radio waves so transmitted are so intense that they activate material found in fluorescent
light bulbs when the bulbs are held near the apparatus. It was also found that the
energy emitted, by ionizing gases, is capable of lighting neon bulbs and other bulbs
The high voltage generated ionizes even the air surrounding the point at the top
of the coil, causing brilliant lavender streamers to emanate from the point. Arcs
also may be drawn to metal through the coil's porcelain insulator. That such arcs
may be drawn proves the inferiority of the insulator in the high voltage conditions.
Wally Kern's research project on display at Central open house From the Frankenmuth
News on May 17, 1961.
on display at Central open houseFrom the Frankenmuth News on September 24, 2008.
By Susan McInerny