Physics Lamps & Lights

Infinity Mirror Lamp

Inexpensive and a few models to choose from: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Infinity Mirror Sphere Lamp 

Also sold as a lightbulb: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Infinity Mirror Firework Bulb 

Infinity Mirror Lamp: illusion of depth from multiple refections. This glass bulb sphere is partially coated inside and out with a thin metal layer. The metal layer is made thinner in a pattern of small circles to produce iridescent colors through thin-film interference effects. When lit from within by white LEDs, multiple reflections on the curved contour create the firework like spray of light and color. So much physics going on in this inexpensive novelty lamp!

Magnetic Suspension Lamp

Available for under $100 US: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Magnetic Suspension Lamp 

From eBay: BUY NOW 
Magnetic Suspension Lamp 

Magnetic Suspension Lamp: not only does this lamp defy gravity, the LEDs in the bulb are powered through wireless induction (no batteries needed). This kind of levitation uses a control system with an adjustable electromagnet in a feedback loop with Hall effect sensors which allows for fine tuning of the magnetic field to exactly balance the pull of gravity. If this lamp design is unplugged (or the power goes off) the bulb assembly does not fall, but instead snaps onto the upper armature via strong permanent magnets embedded within. Amazing physics demonstrated by clever engineering! 


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. 

Purple Plasma Globe

I found this Rick and Morty lamp on eBay:
From eBay: Search Now: Rick and Morty Plasma Globe

Similar purple globes available here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Colored Plasma Globes

Purple Plasma Globe: sold as licensed Rick and Morty merchandise this globe features a glow plasma discharge that is mostly in the violet frequencies giving this device an interesting overall purple hue (probably due to argon gas in the mix). A small high frequency coil at center of these globes creates the high voltage potential between the center electrode and the metal coated glass globe. Current then flows through the thin gas, exciting the electrons in the gas molecules, producing the colorful emission spectra that emanates from the plasma tendrils.


Levitating Inq Lamp

Get (or give!) a Curiosity Box subscription here: JOIN NOW: The Curiosity Box

I love VSauce!
The famous YouTube team puts together 4 boxes of "brain food" each year with fantastic and surprising stuff in each- and a great way to start a science toy collection! 

Get a squish Inq the Octopus here: BUY NOW: Squish Inq or check out Inq's Shop

Levitating Inq Lamp: Inq (the curious orange octopus) hangs illuminated and suspended by magnetic forces. I modified this lamp to incorporate the squish version of the @thecuriositybox mascot with a powerful neodymium magnet on top and a smaller magnet embedded with in Inq’s head- when the octopus is floating the bottom cord engages the light switch. 

Tricolor Plasma Globe with Glow Wand

Get a globe and glow wand here:

From Aurora Plasma Designs: BUY NOW: Globes and Glow Wands

Click here for other amazing: Glow Discharge Designs

Tricolor Plasma Globe and Glow Wand: an engineered mix of low pressure noble gasses exhibit three colors of glow discharge in the plasma filaments that rise upward due to heating. A separate glass wand has a different gas mixture and phosphor coated beads that glow when in contact with the globe. A small high frequency coil at center creates the high voltage potential between the center electrode and the metal coated glass globe. Current flow through the thin gas produces the colorful emission spectra from the gasses. 


Celestial Sphere: the Stars of the Night Sky

Created by Clemens & Christoph of CinkS labs: Available in a cube too! 
From CinkS Labs: BUY NOW: Celestial Spheres

Celestial Sphere: the positions of 5068 stars as they appear in the night sky- along with 88 constellations, laser etched into a crystal sphere. This globe includes all stars of sixth magnitude or brighter- basically all the stars that the average and unaided human eye can see in the sky. The Milky Way in a Sphere: the distribution of stars in our home galaxy, laser etched into a crystal sphere, according to the most recent telescopic surveys and mappings- including the stars in the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy (a small galaxy that is simultaneously orbiting and getting absorbed into the Milky Way) and the major globular clusters outside the main disk

The Levimoon

Get a levitating moon globe lamp here! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Levitating Moon Globe Lamp

The Levimoon: this detailed moon globe is an adjustable lamp that levitates! Charged through wireless induction via the base, the moon floats above the Earth while illuminated from the inside to reveal the major features of the lunar surface, and will rotate when given a slight push. This kind of levitation uses a control system with an adjustable electromagnet in a feedback loop with Hall effect sensors which allows for fine tuning of the magnetic field to exactly balance the pull of gravity. 

Lampe Kino: Polarizing Art

The amazing art of Anne-Lise King available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Kino Lamp Polarizing Art Lights

Lampe Kino: Art from from the manipulation of polarized light. These videos showcase two designs by artist Anne-Lise King, and each design can itself be displayed in numerous ways depending on the orientation of the polarizing filter and the layering of plastic imaging sheets. Light has an orientation, denoted as polarization, and a polarizing filter can be used to block certain orientations. The colors produced here come from how the molecular structure of plastics can rotate the polarization of light that passes through- light corresponding to yellows and greens gets rotated in plastic in proportion to their frequency, red and blue frequencies only a small amount. The images here are constructed with different layers of plastic to rotate the light by differing amounts. Polarizing filters are then added to allow only certain frequencies (colors) of light through.


Vintage VFD Tube Clock

Fully assembeld high quality clocks available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: VFD Tube Clock

Vintage VFD Tube Clock: before seven segment LEDs there were Vacuum Fluorescent Display tubes in which zinc oxide coatings emit green light when bombarded by electrons under high vacuum. A phosphor coated anode segment only illuminates if it and the grid (seen in close up) are both energized at positive potential. This clock features an eight digit IV-18 display tube manufactured in the 1990s and cofigured to power up via a USB cable - old tech meets modern electronics in an elegant acrylic case. 

Lightning 2000 Plasma Lamp

This vintage device is often available on eBay: 
From eBay: BUY NOW 
Vintage Lightning Lamp 


A similar device is available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Blue Lightning Lamp

Lightning 2000 Plasma Lamp: low pressure noble gasses glow due to discharge from high voltage. A small high frequency coil at center creates the high voltage potential between the center electrode dome and the outer glass dome which is coated with a thin transparent film of metal. Current flow through the thin gas produces the glowing zigzagged path like that of lightning but more rounded. Shown here in 480 fps slow motion. 

The FluoroSphere

The kit includes the UV LED base, elegant glass sphere, and enough fluorescent gel for many repeat lights shows. 

From PyroFarms: BUY NOW: FluoroSphere

From Amazon: BUY NOW: FluoroSphere

The FluoroSphere: intricate and dynamic lights shows are produced within an elegant glass sphere as fluorescent dyes in mineral oil slowly mix into room temperature water. Ultraviolet LEDs (in the base on which the sphere rests) make the dyes glow brightly and reveal the initial nondiffusive mixing structure which includes the phenomena of drops, plumes, and other features of Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities. Shown here, slightly sped up, is the first 8 minutes or so of the process which takes up to half an hour to mix evenly. The green light is characteristic of the famous fluorescein dye.

 


Spinning Arc Plasma Lighter

Get a rechargable circular plasma ignition source here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spinning Arc Lighter

Plasma Arc Lighter Physics: a rotating arc of plasma exceeds 1100 C (2000 F) on this flameless lighter. The breakdown voltage of air is about 3000 Volts per mm. Thus the circuit in the lighter must provide about 12,000 volts to produce this 4mm arc. The circuit involves a transformer with very fine wire windings, a transistor, and a powerful lithium-ion battery (USB rechargeable). The circuit produces high frequency current oscillations in the coils that in turn produce the needed high voltage- basically a Tesla coil for your pocket!