Playing with Lighting in a Faraday Suit

Have you ever wanted to shoot lightning bolts out of your hands like the Sith do in Star Wars? Have you ever wanted to be immune to lightning strikes? These things sound impossible, but they actually aren’t. Specially designed suits are capable of making you immune to high voltages by redirecting the flow of current around you. Take for example this video depicting a man being shocked by high voltage arcs from a Tesla coil.

 

 

After seeing something like that, building a Darth Vader costume that can actually shoot lighting doesn’t sound so far-fetched. If you are curious about how that Tesla coil was capable of playing the Imperial March theme from Star Wars, you should check out my previous blog post on plasma arc speakers.

 

How It Works

The type of suit the man was wearing in the video is called a Faraday suit, which is essentially a wearable Faraday Cage. So how does they work? A simple way of thinking about is electricity wants to take the path of least resistance to ground. A metal cage is a very good conductor so the electrical current prefers to flow through the cage and not what is contained inside.

 

From a technical perspective, what is actually happening is that the electric field (i.e voltage difference) causes electrons in the cage to be rearranged. The cage’s negative electrons move toward the positive part of the electric field surrounding the cage. As a consequence, all the atoms near negative part of the electric field lose their electrons, meaning they acquire a positive charge. The negative electrons on one side of the cage, and positive atoms on the other side creates a new electric field. This new electric field occurs within the Faraday cage in the opposite direction of the old one. This means that the new electric field cancels out the original electric field, preventing current from flowing inside the cage.  Wikipedia has a good animation depicting how this works.

An animation from Wikipedia depicting the electric fields inside a Faraday Cage.

 

Check in regularly with the blog to see some of the cool things you can do with technology.

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