Help fund 10-story Tesla Coil lab

Several years ago, I wrote a MAKE: article about Greg Leyh, a brilliant, understated high-voltage engineer/artist in San Francisco who builds the world's largest Tesla coils. For as long as I've known Greg, his dream has been to create a massive lightning laboratory with two 10-story Tesla Coil towers to study high-power scientific phenomena. Indeed, Greg's operation is called Lightning On Demand. With the only barrier being money, Greg has now come up with a "highly cost-optimized version" of the Lightning Laboratory. With this new design, Greg only needs $348,000 to make it happen. And he's launched a Kickstarter project to seek funding to build this magnificent DIY scientific instrument. Greg says:

Leyhhhh Rather than being a purpose-built, conservatively designed machine, the new approach is literally designed around used materials, scrap and salvaged equipment. There’s a lot of great obtainium out there these days!

This new design should still be able to produce the conditions needed to trigger a relativistic avalanche as per Gurevich and Zybin’s calculations [200kV/m, 50m characteristic avalanche length.] Ultimately I hope to trigger a super-long discharge event and discover if there’s any connection with Gurevich’s relativistic runaway breakdown theory, or at least get some gamma-ray precursors.

"The Lightning Foundry" (Kickstarter)

"Power Tripping" (MAKE: Volume 11)


  1. Like I’m gonna help fund a project that’s obviously just a cover story for building a giant death ray. Nice try, mad scientists.

    1. I have personally sipped a cold beer while watching one of Greg’s coils in operation. It was sublime.

  2. If the discharge length is longer than the height, why doesn’t the arc go to ground instead of striking the opposite tower?

    1. Hi Bonobo,

      If the two coil towers operate in phase, the arcs do have a greater tendency to head towards ground.  If they operate in opposite phase then there’s a strong horizontal electric field between the two top electrodes of the towers that provides a  strong guiding action to the arcs as they propagate.   The horiz distance can be more than three times the vert distance when the towers are oppositely phased.   -Greg

  3. When he says “gamma ray precursors” is he talking about optical precursors? If so, that part is more confusing to me than free-electron avalanche (which thankfully was easy enough to understand after looking it up).

  4. Hey Greg, gotta mention the gamma/runaway experiment on the Kickstarter page!

    As it is right now it describes a pair of Electrums.  Longer sparks?  Eh.  But add relativistic MeV seeds and that’s a difference in kind, not size.   Actual unknowns, not just “mine’s bigger,” so funding might also become a “difference in kind.”

    PS an avalanche itself is a conductor, right?  Like an antenna connected to the topload?  So depending on the radius of the end of the electron-runaway glow-discharge, and depending on the electron lifetime, DC rectification effects, etc., the e-field at the end may be many orders larger than 1/r^2 would ever predict, and 200ft may be a vast underestimate. Nobody knows how Tesla could have pulled off claimed accomplishments wo/VLF antennas miles in length. Relativistic avalanche may itself become a VLF antenna miles in length.

    1. Hi William,

       We have a plan for injecting relativistic seed electrons,  but if J.R. Dwyer’s idea that positive feedback from gamma rays and positrons plays a big part, we might be able to just rely on natural sources of relativistic electrons:

      Very intriguing paper. It’s interesting to consider an ‘amplifier’ with a gain of one billion that uses anti-matter as an active component.

  5. A new word! Obtainium… I’m 2nding derindevlet!

    So…   lightning man:  
    Have you been to Black Rock City with this at Burning Man?  
    What are the practical uses for the arcs?
    Is this what Tesla called pulling power out of the air?
    Is this the source of abundant, easily producible electricity? 
    Is this the answer to our power needs?

    AWESOME pitch video…..   358,000 is a lot to expect out of Kickstarter.    So…   I’m going to contribute just so I am sure to follow this awesome project!.  Wow.   

    Nuts, man. These guys are nuts… and passionate… and that – ya’gotta’luv’it

    1. Hi Hester, 

      Actually, the twin coils will be very good at placing power *into* the air.  Here’s a clip of the 1/12th scale prototypes powering our ‘Tesla Roadster’ solely through the air, via wireless power:

      The full-scale coils could provide enough ambient electric fields to host ‘wireless drag races.’  Think it would be great if folks to brought wireless dragsters to race.

      Thanks for supporting the project!

  6. You may be able to make anti-matter!  Really!  The Fermi Telescope has recently and unexpectedly picked up the signature of anti-matter from lightning storms.   
    This fact also suggests that “cold fusion” claims aren’t totally ridiculous, because anything that can happen in lightning can happen in a laboratory.  At least your laboratory! 
    Still, I think one could get a lot of Nickel-Hydrogen LENR work done for $300k and that’s where my money would go. 

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