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Wimshurst Electrical Discharge Machine
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Wimshurst Electrical Discharge Machine
The Wimshurst wheel mysteriously generates an
electric spark between the two spheres at the top.
How It WorksHow It's MadeHow It Went

This is my own interpretation of a Wimshurst electrical discharge machine, a device first developed during the 1880s by James Wimshurst, a British inventor, and used in various Frankenstein films. Its purpose is to generate a high-voltage spark.

The heart of the machine is a set of two glass discs (with metal segments attached to their surface) that are made to rotate in opposite directions via a hand-cranked belt drive. Straddling the right and left of these two discs is a charge collecting device, which is not only connected to a Leyden jar (an early form of battery), but to a hollow brass sphere at the top. The gap between the two spheres is adjustable.

As the discs spin faster and faster, a metal brush 'sweeps' the surface of each disc, while opposing electrical charges accumulate at their opposite ends and are stored in the Leyden jars. (Mind you, this electrical potential is NOT between the two discs, but rather between the opposite ends of each disc. The exact reason why this is the case is rather complicated and not entirely understood.)

When the opposite charges build up past a certain point, they discharge across the gap between the two brass spheres with a loud, dramatic spark! Depending on the humidity and temperature, this spark can get to be over 1 inch wide.

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