Demonstration gives visitors a chance to see properties of electric current up close
In a first, Nehru Science Centre, Worli, has put on display a Sparkling High Voltage Demonstration that offers visitors a closer look at the power and properties of an electric current.
The only scientific institution in India to come up with such an initiative, the Sparkling High Voltage Demonstration was inaugurated in September by Dr. Vasant Shinde, director general, National Maritime Heritage Complex, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. It is now open for citizens.
The new facility boasts of equipment such as the Tesla coil, Jacob’s Ladder, Faraday’s Cage and the Lichtenberg tree formation, among others, found only in high-end laboratories and not accessible to people, said Anil Deshpande, a technical officer working in Nehru Science Centre’s electrical department.
Mr. Deshpande said, “Our motive behind this project was to create awareness of the interesting applications of high voltage and instill in them an interest for the subject.” He said the focus was on schoolgoing students so that they are inclined to pursue electrical and power engineering.
The Tesla coil, an electrical resonant transformer circuit designed by Nikola Tesla in 1891, produces up to 1.5 million volts of electricity. Visitors can get to see an actual thunderbolt rising from it.
The coil works on the idea of transmitting electricity wirelessly. “The Tesla coil has some interesting applications in the emerging field of electric vehicles given its wireless charging capabilities,” Mr. Deshpande said during the demonstration.
Faraday’s cage is exhibited near it. “When high-frequency, high-voltage discharged from the large Tesla coil strikes the cage, which is earthed, nothing happens to any living being inside even if he or she touches any part of the cage,” Mr. Deshpande explained, as he gave a live demonstration. This is the same principle that ensures that passengers are safe even if lightning strikes an aircraft they are seated in.
Another attraction is the Lichtenberg figures, wherein branches or tree-like patterns are created by the passage of high-voltage electrical discharges along the surface or through electrically insulating materials. For the demonstration, the Nehru Science Centre has used wet plywood through which high voltage electric current is passed to demonstrate the Lichtenberg figures.
Students will also get to understand the science behind a Jacob’s Ladder. Here, voltage applied between conductors and electrons on the positive side leap to the negative side, creating an arc.
The facility housing the Sparkling High Voltage Demonstration has cost Nehru Science Centre around ₹30 lakh and was built over nine months. “The idea for this kind of a facility came from a science museum in Paris. Such facilities are common in the West, but in India it is one of its kind,” said Shivprasad Khened, director, Nehru Science Centre.
Asked how will it kindle children’s interest, Mr. Khened said, “This is just the beginning. We are thinking of imparting scientific and technical knowledge through storytelling.”
Mr. Deshpande said the Nehru Science Centre had taken the utmost care regarding public safety and that a technician would be present all the time at the facility for demonstration.
The organisers said the demonstration will be a permanent feature and be open on all working days.