Thinking Tech

Shocking invention: A Tesla lightning gun

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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.

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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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure