90V DC through a 10Ω resistor

October 30, 2017

 During summer of 2014 I went to Tennessee's Governors School for Science and Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  I took the engineering course, where we learned about a variety of different engineering fields.  Fun fact, we visited more than 20 different university labs over the course of the 5-week program.  


For the last two weeks of the class we got to work on a group project in groups of 4ish.  I suggested our group try to make a rail gun or a coil gun.  To my surprise, the course instructors actually allowed us to pursue this idea!  For both a coil gun or a rail gun you basically need a lot of DC voltage or current, and capacitors to store it.  The instructors helped us find a lab power supply (2-32V DC) and many old laptop power supplies to use, along with salvaging some capacitors from an old CRT monitor and purchasing a few online.  


After a lot of testing, we were generally unsuccessful in making either a coil gun or a rail gun.  We managed to get the coil gun to shoot a small piece of metal a few inches, but that's all.  So one day I suggested we put the combined voltage all through a single resistor and see what happened.  With the permission of the instructors (surprisingly again) we did exactly that - and the resistor burst into flames almost immediately.  This is my favorite picture/video from all of Governors School summer camp.  

If you try this at home, be safe-ish! 

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February 11, 2018

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Jacob Thompson


Clemson, SC

© 2020 By Jacob Thompson

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