On a typical day, electronics enable us to turn on the TV or the computer, use the cellular phone, hear the “beeps and blips” of electronic toys and games, have a medical checkup, listen to the news on space explo­ration and world conflicts, even drive our car.

Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius presents a "hands-on” approach allowing the electronic enthusi­ast to construct many devices that are not as well known. These “action” projects demonstrate exciting and useful concepts of this diversified field.

Tesla Coils

The spectacular and highly visible effect produced by the Tesla coil has amazed and fascinated people for years. These high-frequency, high-voltage devices pos­sess qualities unlike conventional electricity. Tesla output energy defies most insulation materials; trans­mits energy without wires; produces heat, light, and noise; and harmlessly passes through human tissue, causing virtually no sensation or shocking effect in the person.

Considerable research, money, and effort have been dedicated to the actual construction of similar, large Tesla coil-type devices capable of producing 200-foot lightning bolts and powering lights 25 miles away. Nikola Tesla was the originator of this research, along with countless other contributions to the elec­trical sciences. As more progress was made in these fields, it was soon realized that he indeed was respon­sible for many advances in the development of energy production.

Tesla is finally being credited for his work and is taking his rightful place as a truly great electrical genius in this field. His main theory of wireless energy transmission, however, is still much in ques­tion, and many dedicated groups are hopeful in obtaining some breakthrough that will resurrect it. The Tesla coil is the basis for much of this interesting research and still amazes all who come in contact with this visual and audible effect.

Plasma Devices

Electrical plasma can be anything from a simple elec­tric arc from a welder to a complex entity of closed – drcuit, toroidal flowing currents such as ball lightning. A nuclear explosion produces a plasma; the sun and a simple fire are forms of plasma. Plasma guns may be the weapons of the future, and plasma propulsion may power spacecraft to near the speed of light. Plasma confinement may be a key to fusion energy, and rotating plasma fields may hold the secrets to levitation devices such as hover boards.

Gas displays using energized plasma can also provide spectacular visual effects.


Lasers first appeared in the early sixties as a crys­talline rod of aluminum oxide (ruby) placed within a helical flash tube. A high-powered flash of light caused a stimulated emission of a powerful light pulse within the ruby rod, capable of punching holes in the hardest of metals. Since then, the laser (an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emis­sion of radiation) has been a part of our lives from laser printers and recorders to complicated eye sur­gery and mega-power-directed beams of energy pro­tecting us from a potential missile attack. To the experimenter, the laser possesses an almost magical property due to its ability to transport energy over a distance.

Lasers are classified in relation to their power out­put and are closely regulated and labeled:

• Class 2 lasers can produce up to 1 milliwatt of optical power. Some popular applications include alignment, intrusion alarms, and point – to-point communications. Even though this class of lasers has the lowest power, a Class 2 laser pointing in your direction can appear as the brightest object at distances over 10 miles.

• Class 3a lasers can produce up to 5 milliwatts. Some applications include laser pointers, gun sights, disc readers, holography, small light shows, and other visual effects.

• Class 3b lasers can produce up to 500 milli­watts and are used for printing, disk burning, range finding, target designation, and night vision illumination to name a few applications.

• Class 4 lasers have unlimited power output. They are the workhorses of the group, with the capability to work with many materials from the hardest of metals to simple wood engraving. Class 4 laser surgery now provides a precision never before thought possible, and eye surgery for cataract removal is now sworn by all who have it done, High-power light shows similar to those at Walt Disney World use Class 4 optical lasers. Bluish-green lasers easily penetrate seawater because of compati­ble colors allowing covert point-to-point com­munications. By penetrating seawater for submarine communications, the concentration of energy into a micro-sized area opens up high-temperature and fusion research. Pro­jecting energy over great distances can power powering interplanetary spacecraft. The inte­gration of multiple micro-sized plasma explo­sions may provide the magical levitating vehicles often depicted as spacecraft. Also, weapons that use directed beam energies into the megajoules in battles against aircraft, ground vehicles, and other difficult targets are now possible. Antipersonal weapons designed to neutralize and disable personel use ener­gies into the kilojoules using timed, pulsed laser diodes have kill ranges well in excess of one mile and are backpackable. These systems are lightweight and require complex optical conditioning.

Many high-powered lasers use carbon dioxide as the laser’s medium. These devices are efficient, trans­mit through air, and are easy to build. They can be made to generate continuous power output into the tens of thousands of watts. An experimenter that can easily build this type of laser that will burn and cut many materials Lasers can be are pulsed, obtaining enormous peak powers into the gigawatts. This power is not to be confused with energy, as the power pulses last for fractions of a second, whereas energy must be integrated over a 1-second period. A true measure of pulsed laser energy is by its output in joules.

Research in the field of lasers still remains very fertile with many new and exciting developments still yet to come.


The field of ultrasonics remains a relative gray area with few available hobbyist-level projects. Ultrasonic energy is produced by a piezoelectric or magne – tostrictive transducer powered by a signal generator. Ultrasonics can be used for cleaning where a solvent transmits these vibrations dislodging unwanted mate­rials and dirt. Plastic materials can be welded or cut by rapid vibrations, causing frictional heating. Acoustical ultrasonics is often used for discouraging animals against intruding into a certain area. It is also used for range finding and can be an excellent intru­sion detection device.

High-sound-pressure, acoustical energy is very inefficient, owing to the physics of energy transfer between two surfaces of dissimilar densities. Standing waves impede this energy coupling and make it diffi­cult to obtain high-decibel output. Energy transfer between two surfaces is optimized when both materi­als have like densities, which is why sound travels bet­ter through water. Air is many times less dense than a liquid and its lack of density therefore offers a greater challenge to the researcher in overcoming the problem of successful energy transfer. Nevertheless, sonic transducers are effectively used with horns and other means to vibrate as much air as possible.

The effects of high-sound-pressure sonic energy can provide an excellent low-liability deterrent to unauthorized intrusion. A vertical wall of pain can be

generated, causing nausea, dizziness, and extreme paranoia, which usually discourages the intrusion. No after-effects are produced once out of the field. How­ever, sound pressure levels exceeding 140 decibels per minute can be harmful and should be avoided.

Listening to low-level ultrasonic sounds can be interesting to a nature enthusiast. Many insects and mammals emit sounds well out of human hearing range. Many man-made devices, such as rotating machinery, generate high-frequency sound and enable the detection of leaking air, water, or leaking electricity in the form of corona usually indicating a potential fault. Thus, directional ultrasonic listening can be a valuable tool.


The properties of magnets have long fascinated man since the discovery of lodestones by the ancient Greeks centuries ago. Even in today’s advanced tech­nology, the ability to attract and repel magnetized objects still remains a mystery. Magnetism, in spite of its mysterious properties, is perhaps the most impor­tant force known to man. Without the knowledge of how to use magnets, everyday motors, transformers, communications, and most forms of transportation would be next to impossible. Electricity generation would not exist.

The Star Wars defense initiative has opened up many doors to the potential use of this technology. Electrokinetically launching objects at hyperveloci­ties much like the effect of a meteor shower will cre­ate a destructive barrier to incoming ballistic missiles. The propelling of radioactive waste and many other materials safely into outer space, the potential levita­tion of terrestrial vehicles, and of course projectile – type weapons are other applications.

Even though magnetic properties do not give way to variances, they do manifest properties in different forms. Motors use magnets to produce rotating mechanical energy from electricity and, of course, the opposite where generators use magnets and rotating energy to produce electrical power. Transformers take advantage of changing magnetic fields as a func­tion of time, whereas relays and solenoids produce linear motion.

Electrokinetic accelerators utilize magnetic forces where a conducting and movable armature is placed between two parallel conducting rails. A force is now produced in the armature as a result of the interac­tive magnetic fields occurring around the armature and the current-carrying rails. Remember a current – carrying conductor produces a proportional magnetic field, which is basic high school physics.

Those who are familiar with vectors will recall the Lorentz JXB forces where a force is produced between a current-carrying conductor (the armature) and the magnetic В field produced in the rails. Accel­eration of the armature occurs over the entire length of the rails and can reach unheard of velocities com­pared to chemical combustion.

Even though pulsed magnetics is not new, little information exists to provide a "hands-on” approach for the hobbyist or experimenter. Positive interest exists in this field for using this technology as a viable potential for the previously mentioned applications, as well as the nonevasive use of shockwaves in break­ing up kidney and gallstones. Even a form of “mag­netic destructors” is intended for use in robot wars and contests.

We therefore feel a “how-to” book demonstrating projects for the serious electronic and mechanical experimenter, as well as for technical interest groups, will prove to be popular. The projects here will fall within the realms of both the amateur and the serious experimenter. All the projects will contain a briefing of mathematical theory for those interested, along with a simple explanation of the operation. Individual chapters will have headings suggesting the required competence and experience of the reader, as well as any hazards that may be encountered. All the con­struction projects will also contain a full bill of mate­rials with sources necessary to complete the device as described.

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