The Lightning Gun?
   By Staci J. Elaan

There's been a hot of buzz going around these days about portable Tesla coils of all sorts.  A musical Tesla coil on a hat, a handheld Tesla gun.   This has been a great passion of mine ever since the days of Quake 3 Arena - where I would frequently pull the bitch move of discharging the lightning gun under water to kill all the other players.

Could it ever be real, how could such technology exist?  I became obsessed with this topic and did a little investigative digging.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong with any of this, but the earliest real lightning gun sighting dates back to 2004.  The device in question was demonstrated by IBM engineer Tim Trifilo at SUNY New Paltz NEW faces of engineering.  It even made the news. 

Some tool name Jeff Biamonte that left engineering to become a manager.  Notice all the creepy people in the background staring...

Notice the date on the banner in the first image clearly stating such things existed in 2004. The guy in the blue shirt is some dude named Jeff - who abandoned engineering to become a manger,

The event even made the local news at the time.  Apologies for the poor quality but it appears to be a VHS era recording.

Here's where it gets really odd.   The trail goes cold!  Nearly two dozen investigative calls and one to the IBM HR hotline confirms that Mr. Trifilo did work there 1999 to 2007 - but that is all they are willing to disclose via their HR hotline.

Months of searching and this mythical beast seems to have reappeared at a local children's science museum.  Interestingly within 20 miles of the IBM facility where Mr. Trifilo was employed.

Shown in the picture with numerous children holding ionized fluorescent tube lamps is none other than the president of Spaceship Discovery of Hyde Park, New York.   An interview with Mr. Holt revealed that Mr. Trifilo sold him the "ray gun" for $50 so he could purchase diapers and baby formula for his newborn daughter. Ok...The Star Trek uniform just makes it kind of creepy.    In all 3 pictures one can clearly see there is a line cord (AC Mains perhaps) powering the device.  Independent reports confirm that IBM still doesn't pay their new hire engineers squat - in many geographies they lag the national average by 20% or more in starting salaries according to a manager that spoke under anonymity.

Here's were I picked up the torch. 

 In early 2006, I began studying solid state tesla tech from start to finish.  Being a degreed semiconductor physics engineer this was not too much a challenge - but I had no idea what the hell I was in for.
After much finagling and blown up MOSFETs, I finally had a working prototype:

Clearly I had to lean on the AC mains to power this beast as it runs over 100W and needed the 170VDC rectified mains to operate.   Well...Talk is cheap and stage props are only marginally more expensive to make - so here's a video of it working:

And here's what's inside if you're curious:

Surely this was not good enough.  In my relentless quest for a real portable solution I decided to opt out of using a backpack with an inverter or Douglas Palermo would say *LAME*.

This spawned the research for the generation 6 lightning gun. built on the chassis of a RYOBI 18V circular saw, and powered by an 18V battery - a new champion was born.  This device was analog controlled for the power electronics loops, and FPGA driven (Altera Cyclone) for the fancy digital stuff. At it's core this is all work insipired by Mr. Steve Ward. Oh god do I wanna have like 20 of his babies.

Bring me my lightning gun - it's the one that says "Bad Motherf*cker"!  weighing in at only 14lbs this beast was a total win.  RF Ground can be my body - or a metal strap on the bottom of each shoe when outdoors (preferred for obvious reasons).

Now with an ultra compact RF inverter design!

The RF link capacitor is very special for these designs - and instead of opting for a CDE942 series like the rest of the solid state coiling community does - I made my own ultra low inductance, near zero ESR DRSSTC Capacitor.

And there we go - sealed with hot wax and a kiss!

Basic pulse firing mode shown here:

Here, playing the Super Mario Bros. Theme:

And there are two things I am a sucker for... 8 bit chip tunes are one of them...So here's Popcorn!

Of course this spawned other LG research - into super small and compact models as shown here in the youtube video:

Here's the a short video showing the guts of the baby version:

This concept was not practical so here's a photograph of the ultra dense 18V RF inverter used in the modified Harbor Freight "Drill Master"

So...I hope this sets the record clear.  As stated earlier - feel free to correct me on any of took a lot of digging and I very well could have missed something!

Enjoy !

Staci Elaan,
May 20, 2012, 1:03 PM