Arcs from mains voltage 230 V

You might have seen them all. Flyback transformers, microwave oven transformers, ignition coils, oil burner transformers, potential transformers, pole pigs, x-ray transformers, high voltage switched mode supplies, Tesla coils and the list goes on. However, have you ever thought of a possibility of drawing arcs directly from mains current?

Central European type E socket230 volt socket “type E”

Of course, it’s not that easy as shorting your receptacle out, unless you wanted to bypass your circuit breakers and burn your house down. For this you’re going to need a current limiter – for this experiment, inductive loads such as chokes are the best.
In my configuration, instead of chokes I used two microwave oven transformers (MOTs) with their high voltage secondaries shorted out, because their inductive reactance is too high when unloaded. Of course, you’re free to choose any reasonable iron-cored chokes or ballasts designed for big currents (above 15-20A), such as those ones for high-pressure sodium bulbs. They’ll do perfectly the same.

Microwave oven transformers as chokesThe whole setup

To keep the arc stable, a rectifier is also a must, rated at least 16 amps and more. For prolonged run I’d suggest an adequately-sized heatsink, too. You can also add some filtration electrolytics if you like, but that’s not needed.
To wire it all up, place your first choke (above 50 mH is good) in series with the rectifier. The second choke goes in series with the output electrodes (rectifier output). That’s all – the lower your inductance is, the higher the current you’ll get 🙂 You can also experiment with more chokes placed in parallel with the first one.

230V arc with current limiterIntense 230 volt arcing

Just be sure to use big-ass chokes rated for high currents (or transformers, with a suitable leakage inductance) as mentioned above, since this circuit works like an arc welder. Because the arc is very intense you shouldn’t really omit some eye protection along the way. Since it runs at mains potential, avoiding contact with live electrodes is also a good thing.

Arcs, arcs and even more arcs

2 Replies to “Arcs from mains voltage 230 V”

  1. adding to the list of arcs: the leads from a solar pannel array will jam some great arcs,
    on a sunny day of course.
    nothing else needed.
    have been told that intercepting this current on a bright clear cold morning ,is to be avoided.

  2. Really cool!
    According to my experience – for DC in the range from 80-100 volts and up to about 1000-2000 volts (wich this also actually is since you’re using a rectifier and smoothing inductor), the voltage doesnt affect very much how long arcs you can draw. It’s mostly a function of power (voltage times current). Actually lower voltages may be preferrable since it will allow for more current that also gives the possibility to have a short arc with concentrated heat that can melt or vaporize pretty much anything (can be used for arc welding or an arc furnace).

    Very low voltages (below about 80-100 volts) will not allow for very long arcs though – since the current drops quickly with the distance between the electrodes (due to the resistance of the arc) and it doesn’t get very long before it goes out.
    At very high voltages there is no real limits – sometimes it’e even hard to tell what’s an arc and just corona discharge at low power levels (50 kV). In most cases DC is more fun than AC to make arcs.
    Hope this can be helpful for those who plan to build their own power source

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