Richard Munson
Richard Munson
May 12

What’s the Tesla Coil?

Tesla was fascinated with high electrical frequencies.

To obtain them, he cleverly adjusted an induction coil – which produces high-voltage pulses from low-voltage current – in order to obtain resonance, in which one portion of the circuit drives another to oscillate with greater amplitude, allowing Tesla to produce a current alternating at 30,000 times per second. Although he referred to this invention as an oscillating transformer, calling it “as revolutionary as gunpowder was to warfare,” the device quickly became known as the Tesla coil. ⚡

That high-frequency device provided for the first time a smooth, continuous electric current at thousands of volts and at any specific frequency. It opened the door to advances in electrical lighting, phosphorescence, X-ray generation, electrotherapy, atom splitting, and the transmission of electrical energy without wires. Until the 1920s and the advent of vacuum tube oscillators, that groundbreaking machine also formed the core of radio transmitters for wireless telegraphy. Even 30 years later, scientists at the Carnegie Institution used a 5-million-volt Tesla coil; in their pioneering attempt to smash the atom.

Tesla: Inventor of the Modern