Watch High Voltage Plasma Vortices Dance On Your Speaker

Craft & Design Music Science
Watch High Voltage Plasma Vortices Dance On Your Speaker

Most people use normal speakers that cause vibration with an electromagnet, so chances are you’ll be listening to the videos in this article with such speakers. In an extreme modification of this concept, Anthony “Proto G” Garofalo decided to make several versions of a speaker using arcing electricity. His first experiment seen below uses “a 555 timer to convert an audio input signal into a frequency modulated signal used to drive a flyback transformer.”

YouTube player

As neat as that is, if you insert one of the electrodes into a ring magnet, you get an arcing vortex. This is because the ring magnet acts as the other pole. You can see this in the video below. Garofalo explains his setup in the beginning, and the vortex and music start around 0:30.

YouTube player

After seeing the video you might wonder how exactly this works. The arcing part is easy enough to understand: If a high enough potential exists between two points, electricity will travel through the air to reach its destination. Lightning is a great example of this concept.

Spinning in a “vortex,” however, means that there is another principle at work called the Lorentz force. This has to do with how electricity and magnetism interact, and can be predicted using the “right hand rule,” which you may remember from physics class. Garofalo explains this rule at around 1:00 in the video below.

YouTube player

Certainly this would be a great illustration to use in a classroom environment, since actually visualizing electricity is something that we rarely see without an adverse effect. For a much simpler project (that involves less high voltage electricity), he also shows how to make a simple homopolar motor with a battery, magnet, and paper clip just after the 2:00 mark in this last video.

For another arcing concept from Garofalo, be sure to check out his “High Voltage EPROM man.” As always, if you try any of these experiments, be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions!


Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

View more articles by Jeremy S Cook


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).