By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Design
A DIY "mad scientist" has become an internet sensation after showing off a gun that shoots lightning bolts.
If 150,000 volt stun guns aren't enough to deter criminals, law enforcement might want to give Rob Flickenger a buzz.
The IT expert, who also has a bit of a reputation as a DIY mad-scientist, has a shocking new invention: a real-life lightning gun. Built over a period of at least 10 months, the zapper is the end result of combining the aim-and-shoot functionality of an aluminum-encased Nerf gun with the electrical power supplied by an 18V drill battery.
The gun, which some of you might have guessed, is essentially a weaponized version of a Spark Gap Tesla Coil. To generate a high-voltage discharge, Flickenger designed a system that channeled the power drill's 18V of power into a ZVS driver circuit, which in turn drives a flyback transformer, thereby raising the voltage to about 20,000V. All of this is admitted pretty technical, so if you want a detailed explanation of how it works, check out his site Hackerfriendly.com, where he goes through the finer points of the technology.
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A fully functioning "death ray," as it was dubbed by the press, is considered one of the major unrealized dreams of legendary innovator Nikola Tesla, who failed to convince the military to invest in developing such a weapon. Interestingly enough, it was after reading about Tesla's struggles in the book "The Five Fists of Science" that Flickenger felt inspired to build an actual working prototype. And though he admits the weapon is "functionally inferior" to Tesla’s design, the inventor reminds readers on his blog that it's still an improvement in that it's battery-powered and most importantly that it "actually exists."
As of right now, the lighting gun is nothing more than a homemade novelty. While there are photos and a video purportedly demonstrating that it indeed works, Flickenger hasn't mentioned any plans to have the invention independently tested nor possibilities for practical applications.
In any case, he'd be well-advised to do whatever he can to avoid having it labeled as a death ray.
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May 20, 2012
The big problem in the past is that you can create a lightning bolt, but you can't always control where it goes. Mythbusters tried this with a huge Tesla coil, and they couldn't control where the bolt went. It's not even an issue of how well the target is grounded, it's totally unpredictable.
Portable zappers emit but don't shoot... Think physical contact or at best close proximity (close and personal as the SF like to say) required... The militaries beamed weapon is a far better crowd controller, since who wants to hang around if they feel like their skin is on fire...
One pre-conditions the path one WANTS the bolt to take, as in shooting an IR lazer down the path to ionize the air, and THEN sending out the charge...
I have a 150 watt CO2, it doesn't ionize air. I have a 350 milliwatt Helium Cadmium, it doesn't ionize air. I just sold my 9 watt Argon, it didn't ionize air. Oh I mean, ENOUGH to allow a lightning waveguide. So are you speaking of firing maybe a 50 kilowatt X-Ray enhanced, Excimer Gas Dynamic Laser to make that path? Because if so, the melted residue won't be affected by the 150K electrostatic watts, that follows. ; ) hehe