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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 Open House.

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 containing gases.

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




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