Fun Devices: Engine DIY

Emission Spectra Gases on Radial Mount

I made the display holder and I got this set of gas tubes here (about $9 per tube): 
From eBay: BUY NOW: Gas Pure Element Samples

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil
For the price, this is the best one on the market- and beautiful to look at in copper- and it comes with three accessories for the top. Please be sure to employ all appropriate safety precautions when utilizing any electrical circuity!

The mount is made by driling holes in this acrylic tube: 4" Acrylic Tube

The breakdown voltages of the elements featured in this post are described by Paschen's Law: 
Here is a excellent article with an overview of the physics of glow discharge and its application in lighting and other technologies. 

Click this link to see the mini Tesla coil in action

Emission Spectra Gas Samples: pure samples of hydrogen, nitrogen and five noble gasses are subjected to the high frequency pulsed field of a miniature Tesla coil. Each gas has a characteristic breakdown voltage and emission spectrum- note that Nitrogen has the highest breakdown voltage and begins to glow after the presence of my hand temporarily lowers the resistance to current flow for that tube. The color of each gas is due to a mix of the colors emitted from electron energy transitions specific to each element- the basis of spectroscopy. Notice also that the purple color of the brush discharge at the top of the Tesla coil matches closely to the color of the nitrogen sample, which makes sense as air is 78% nitrogen. 

Handheld Tesla Coil

Get this spark generator here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Handheld Tesla Coil

See other inexpensive tesla coils in my collection

Handheld Tesla Coil: each pull of the trigger discharges a large capacitor (seen through the clear window) with a loud pop and a tiny lightning bolt then streaks from the tip. In this variation of the famous air core double-tuned resonate transformer invented by Nikola Tesla in 1891, the 10 cm long sparks are made possible by a very high voltage, but are made fairly safe due to a very low current (mA)- the discharge feels like a light sting (but don’t touch the electrode- it gets hot). This battery powered version is friendly for demonstrations, such as exciting an ampule of neon gas to glow brightly during the high voltages discharges (swipe to view in slow motion). 

Electric Generator Demonstator

Get this demonstation here: 
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Electric Generator

I upgraded this version with a larger LED light bulb: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: 3V LED lightbulbs and E26 Socket

Generator Teaching Demo: The electrical energy that comes to your home is produced by some device somewhere moving a coil of wire next to a magnet to produce an electric current (known as Faraday’s law of induction). This tabletop demonstration uses a crank and belt drive to spin the coil between the north and south poles. The ends of the coil are attached to the two smooth metal pieces on the shaft (the commutator) that makes contact with the output wires and connects to the lightbulb. Maximum current is produced when the axis of the coil is at a right angle to the magnetic field- so the current comes in a series of pulses and the bulb flashes on and off. Physics of energy transfer: mechanical kinetic energy→ electrical energy→ light energy. 

Hero's Engine

This live steam engine is available here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Hero's Engine

Hero’s Engine: the very first steam engine ever devised, the Aeolipile is a radial steam jet reaction turbine, an a invention attributed to Hero of Alexandria in the year 1 AD. Water within the spherical container is heated to produce steam which exits through nozzles directed at right angles to the radial direction, and by Newton’s third law these jets produce a torque about the rotation axis. There is no historical record of this engine being put to practical use in ancient times- except perhaps as the world’s first physics toy!

Butterfly Mendocino Motor

Get similar motors here: 

From engineDIY: BUY NOW Solar Levitating Motor

Butterfly Mendocino Motor: the simplest (and very elegant) version of this motor with only two photovoltaic cells mounted with care to ensure precision balance. This motor will spin quietly to high RPMs on any sunlit windowsill. In this model made by Semyon Nazarov of SolarWindRU, each of the two photovoltaic solar cells is connected to a coil of copper wire under the opposing solar cell. When the rotor is lit from above the top solar cell provides electric current to the coil in the bottom position which becomes a temporary electromagnet that pushes against the permanent magnet in the base propelling the rotor to rotate. As the rotor turns, the coil that moves into the bottom position is likewise energized by the solar cell currently at the top- one can say the light commutates this motor. 2D magnetic levitation is provided by permanent magnets where an acrylic plate constrains the third dimension, and makes for a nice bearing surface for minimal friction. Invented in the 1960s by Daryl Chapin of Bell Labs and popularized by Larry Springs of Mendocino CA

Element 10: Neon 

Get this high quality cube here:

From ProtoshopLLC: BUY NOW: Lucite Cube Element 10 Neon

Need a mini Tesla Coil?
From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil

Element 10, Neon: a pure sample of the famous noble gas in a glass ampule encased within a lucite cube. But how can we know that the glass tube is actually filled with neon gas? If the sample is brought near the 50,000 Volt high frequency electric field of a miniature Tesla coil, the gas will glow with the characteristic orange light from the electron energy transitions specific only to neon. Note that the glow deceases as the sample is moved away from the coil in proportion to the electric field intensity- and that there is an excitation threshold, the gas needs a higher intensity (closer to coil) to initiate the glow discharge but will still glow when moved further away. 

Vacuum Engine 

Get this amazing engine here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Vacuum Flame Licker Engine

Flame Eater Engine: also called a vacuum engine- operates by opening a valve during the piston intake stroke to pull in a bit of burning gas from the flame- the valve closes and the trapped hot gas expands pushing the piston. The exhaust stroke then has the gas cool, contract, and get pushed out the same valve right before the process repeats. Slow motion captures the intake of the flame through the valve/mouth at the cylinder head which gives the appearance that flame is being chewed- hence the name. Note this engine design does not need to warm up and starts instantly, but is very inefficient as only a fraction of the burning fuel (alcohol) is used by the thermodynamic process each cycle.