Build Your Own Jacob’s Ladder

Unleash your inner mad scientist! Popular Science shows you how to build your own DIY Jacob’s Ladder, a must-have for any deranged laboratory.
Popular Science shows you how to build your own Jacob's Ladder

Named for the ladder to heaven dreamed of by Jacob in the Book of Genesis, Jacob’s Ladder is a high voltage traveling arc device which creates sparks that rise up between two conductors. Now you can make your laboratory complete with your own DIY mad scientist equipment.

All you need is about 4 hours, $125 worth of parts, and this guide from Popular Science to build your own Jacob’s Ladder:

The science behind a Jacob’s Ladder is simple: When voltage is applied between conductors—in this case, the two wires—electrons on the positive side want to leap to the negative side. To do that, they have to over- come the insulating barrier of air between the wires.

If you crank the voltage high enough, the electrons break free and turn the air into plasma. Since plasma is a great conductor of electricity, an arc appears between the wires. The heated air around the plasma is less dense than the air above, so it moves upward. The electrons follow, causing the arc to travel.

Build it here: How to Build a Jacob’s Ladder

Multiple exposure photo of a Jacob's Ladder
Multiple exposure image of a Jacob’s Ladder via Wikimedia Commons

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