Lifter Troubleshooting Guide

This section provides in-depth information on trou­bleshooting a prototype lifter in the event that it does not work correctly during testing.

Problem 1: The Lifter Is Not Moving, and I Don’t Hear a Hissing Noise

If you don’t hear a hissing noise, this means the lifter is not receiving high-voltage power from the high – voltage supply. Try these suggestions:

• Unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

• Check the ground connection to the lifter and make sure you have good contact to both the foil skirt and the high-voltage supply’s ground wire.

• Make sure the crimped end of your corona wire is hooked snugly around the electrode that comes out of the high-voltage supply.

• Ensure that the enamel coating has been removed from the ends of the ground wire. You can do this by scraping the enamel off with the edge of a hobby knife.

Problem 2: The Lifter Is Not Moving, and the High-Voltage Suooly Seems Comoletely Dead

Have you tried checking the power supply to the high-voltage supply?

• Check the high-voltage supply’s on/off switch.

• Check the 12-volt supply that provides power to the high-voltage supply.

• Check the on/off switch on the power strip if you are using one.

Problem 3: The Lifter Is Not Moving, and I Do Hear a Hissing Noise

The hissing noise (and slight breeze) means that the lifter is getting high-voltage power from the high – voltage supply. One of the following suggestions might eliminate the problem:

• Unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

■ Check the ground-wire connectivity to make sure it has a connection back to the high – voltage supply.

• Try sliding the entire corona wire down the vertical balsa struts a little until it is closer to the foil skirt. This reduces the distance between the two capacitive elements and increases the lifting power.

Problem 4: The Lifter Is Moving a Little but Is Not Taking^Of^

The lifter either does not have enough power to lift off or the high-voltage capacitance on the foil skirt is causing an attraction to the test surface. Try one of the following:

• Leave the high-voltage supply plugged in and the power turned on.

• Try gently blowing on the lifter until it moves. This may jostle the lifter otf the capacitive spot that it sits on and it may suddenly lift off without warning.

• Try using a long nonconductive piece of plas­tic to gently lift one edge of the lifter up from the testing surface.

• Check the high-voltage and ground wires to ensure that they are off the testing surface. They may also cause static cling to the testing surface.

Problem Б: The Lifter Is Moving but Has a Lot of Electrical Rrcing

The electrical arcing on your lifter is preventing enough capacitance to build up to allow a sustainable lift.

• Unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

• Try sliding the entire corona wire up the verti­cal balsa struts a little (less than 1 centimeter at a time) until it is farther away from the foil skirt. This increases the distance between the two capacitive elements and it reduces lifting power, but it should also reduce electrical arc­ing and make liftoff possible.

• Ensure that the foil skirt has been folded over the top of the balsa horizontal strut and has been taped with a piece of Scotch tape on the other side. If the foil has not been folded over

the top of the horizontal balsa strut, it will not have proper surface area capacitance.

• Ensure that no sharp edges are present that would lead to ion leakage on the foil skirt of the lifter. Also ensure that no sharp edges are sticking off the end of the corona wire as they will reduce capacitance.

Problem Б: The Lifter Is Lifting off, but uuhen Rrcing Occurs It Suddenly Drops or Loses Height

Sudden drops in lift height may accompany large, elec­trical arcs between the foil and the corona wire due to a rapid reduction in capacitance in the corona wire and foil skirt of the lifter, which in turn reduces thrust. See Problem 5 for details on troubleshooting this.

Problem 7: The Lifter Is Lifting off and “Bouncing" the Tether, but Thrust Is Not Stable

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If the lifter is bouncing at the end of the tether or rapidly swaying back and forth, it is due to irregulari­ties in thrust versus positioning.

• Unplug the high-voltage supply apd wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

• Check each of the tethering threads and make sure they are all the same length when fully extended,

• Check each of the tethering threads to make sure they are a reasonable length (8 to 14 inches).

• Check the high-voltage and ground wires to make sure they aren’t snagging on something during liftoff. You may try taping the high – voltage and ground wires to a nonconductive surface about 10 inches from the top of the testing surface. (Note: Make sure these wires do not cross or else they will short out your power supply.)

• Make sure all three corners of the lifter are about the same weight. Note that the corners with wires attached will weigh a little more but should not be noticeably heavier.

Problem 8: Arcing Is Occurring Between the Ground ULIire and the HV UUire

Electrical arcing between the ground wire and the high-voltage wire occurs because the wires are too close. This does not include the arcing that occurs on the lifter itself, which is covered under Problem 5.

• Immediately unplug the liigh-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissi­pate.

• Move the ground and high-voltage wires far­ther apart from each other to prevent future arcing.

Note that electrical arcs between these two wires can cause permanent damage to your high-voltage supply power source.

Problem 9: The Lifter Lifts off and Immediately Shorts the HV and Ground LJUires

Electrical shorts between the high-voltage and ground wires can occur when the position of these wires changes as the lifter lifts off from the test sur­face.

• Immediately unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissi – paie.

• Reposition the high-voltage and ground wires so that they are less likely to touch and cause an electrical short during liftoff. Taping the wires in place about 10 inches from the testing surface can also reduce the movement of these wires during liftoff.

Problem 10: The Lifter Lifts off and Immediately Pulls to One Side

The litter may pull to one side when it lifts off, mean­ing that instead of moving up in a reasonably straight manner from the testing surface, it takes off and flies in a particular direction. This occurs because of weight or thrust instability and is usually due to weight on the corners of the lifter due to incorrectly positioned high-voltage and ground wires.

• Unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

• Try shortening or lengthening the tethering threads to position the lifter where it should be at maximum height.

• Try shortening all three tethering threads to a reasonable length by reducing them approxi­mately 2 inches.

• Ensure that the high-voltage and ground wires are suspended from the testing surface so that they do not add excess weight to the corners of the lifter.

• Ensure that the aluminum foil skirt is reason­ably straight and not crumpled around the entire frame of the lifter and that it is cut to the same height all the way around the frame.

• Ensure that the corona wire maintains the same distance from the foil skirl around the entire frame of the lifter and is pulled reason­ably tight between vertical balsa struts.

Problem 11: The Corona ULIire Flutters During Liftoff and Causes Thrust Problems

The corona wire may flutter during liftoff due to elec­trostatic forces.

• Unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

• Try straightening the corona wire by hand until it is lined up reasonably straight above the foil skirt.

Try removing the corona wire from the lifter and re wrapping it with a new piece of wire stretched firmly between posts, (Remember that the posts are balsa and cannot take much stress.)

Problem 13: The Foil Skirt Flutters During Liftoff and Causes Thrust Problems

Shortening the overall length of the high-volt­age and ground wires to reduce electrical resistance

Ensuring that you’ve used balsa wood and not basswood to construct the lifter (basswood looks almost identical but has a smoother con­sistency and more almond-like color and tex­ture)

Ensuring that you haven’t used heavy-duty aluminum foil for the foil skirt

A reasonable amount of aluminum skirt flutter may occur during testing due to electrostatic forces; how­ever, an excessive amount may cause thrust prob­lems.

• Unplug the high-voltage supply and wait for the high-voltage charge to dissipate.

• Try straightening the corona wire by hand until it is lined up reasonably straight above the foil skirt.

• Try using small dabs of superglue to hold the bottom of the skirt in place on the bottom of the vertical balsa support struts. Be aware that weight is critical and superglue may add too much weight if it is used excessively.

Problem IB: The Lifter Hisses but Just UJill Not Lift Off

If you’ve gone through this entire troubleshooting document and still not found out what the problem is, it could be that your lifter is just too heavy. Some ways to correct weight problems include the follow-

• Shaving excess balsa from the frame

• Trimming aluminum foil off the lifter (trim even strips around the bottom to remove the foil)

• Supporting the high-voltage and ground wires off the test surface to reduce wire weight

• Ensuring that you used the correct gauge of stainless steel corona wire

Ruthor’s Note: General Troubleshooting Guidelines

Here are some extra thoughts on troubleshooting that don’t really fit well in any of the previous cate­gories but may assist you during testing:

• First, there needs to be a capacitance between the corona wire and the foil skirt. If sharp edges are present or if these elements are just too close, then too much charge transfer will occur and capacitance will be lost. This is the main reason why the foil is folded over the top of the horizontal balsa support struts: to reduce sharp edges and increase capacitance. This is also why several centimeters of distance occur between the corona wire and the foil skirt. This also reduces the charge transfer and increases capacitance.

• Second, the charge transfer between the corona wire and the foil skirt needs to occur for the Bicfeld-Brown effect to work properly. If the corona wire is too heavily shielded due to the wire’s enamel coating, the charge trans­fer will not occur. Similarly, if the distance between the corona wire and the foil skirt is too great, the charge transfer will not occur. Please note that the charge transfer seems to be required only when the device is tested in an atmosphere, because the lifter design has been successfully tested in a vacuum environ­ment.

• Make sure your lifter weighs as little as possi­ble. The required weight appears to be about 2.6 grams maximum, although that is not set
























in stone. It depends on construction, leakage current, and so on. The prototypes I’ve con­structed weighed so little that I could barely tel! when I was holding them; the wires seemed to outweigh the prototype itself.

The lifter prototype requires time and a little finesse to make it work. I spent nearly two weeks building prototypes before 1 built my first working model. It only takes me about 20 minutes to build a working model at this point.

The lifter has a tendency to cause attraction to the test surface. This is static cling from the capacitive charge on the foil skirt to the test­ing surface. You can reduce this by putting something underneath the lifter (1 use a plas­tic straw) to prop it up from the surface dur­ing testing.

Table 1-1 Complete parts list

Ref. # Qty. Description DB #

R1 10K trimpot vertical

R2.4 2 Ю-ohm. Ve-watt resistor (br-hlk-blk)

R3,5,8,9 4 IK. lA-watt resistor (br-blk-red)

1 47K, 1-watt resistor (yel-pur-or)

10K trimpot vertical

100 mfd/25-voIt vertical electro – radial leads

.0022 microfared (mfd)/50-volt greenie plastic cap (222)

2 .01 mfd/50-volt disk (103)

1000 mfd/25-volt vertical electrolytic capacitor

C20A-20J 10 500 pfd, 10 Kv ceramic disk cap

C6 .22 mfd/250-volt metalized polypropylene

C9 1 mfd/25-volt vertical electro cap

C7 .1 mfd/50-volt cap lNFO#VG22

D20A-20J 10 16 Kv* 5 ma avalanche diodes #VG16

D3,4 2 IN914 silicon diodes

DU 1 PKE1515-volt transient suppressor

D12 IN4937 fast-switching 1 Kv diode

Q1 IRF540 MOSFET transistor T0220

11,2 2 555 DIP timer

Tl Mini-switching transformer, #IU28

7 Kv 10 та. K089

LI 2 6 Uh inductor; see text on assembly


PBOARD 5- X 2.8- X.1-inch grid perforated board.

Fab to size per Figure 1-3.


WR20R 12 inch #20 vinyl red wire for positive input

WR20B 12 inch #20 vinyl black wire for negative input

WR20G 12 inch #20 vinyl green wire for output ground to

craft return

WR20KV 4 inch 20 Kv silicon high-voltage wire for output



18 #20-inch bus wire for spark gap

inch and heavy leads (see Figure 1-8)

12 #24 bus wire for light leads

inch (see Figure l-7a. b).

#30 magnet wire for tethering the craft



50-uamp meter shown with

3- inch face

10 meg, 1-watt resistor (hr-hk-bl)

2 kHz trimpoi for meter adjust

10K pot and switch

Top 8 ‘/г – x 4 Чг – X 3 lh – X V32 – inch hlack or clear plastic

Bottom 8 ‘/з – x 4V2- x 3 Чг-X Чгг – inch black or clear plastic

Insulating tube 5- X 3k – inch-thick wall rigid plastic tubing

4- X 3/h – inchTygon sleeving for R30-35

3/s -inch clamp bushing

#6 X Vs sheet metal screws

1.5- X 1-inch.063 AL plate fabbed as per Figure 1-4

6-32’/2 Phillips screw

6-32 kep nut

6-32 X 3/s – inch nylon screws

Table 1-1 Complete parts list (continued)


Dptianal Items

Ref. # Qty. Description



2-millimeter stainless wire tor ion



inch emitters

2U 1 – meg, 1-watt resistors

115 Vac to 12 Vdc/3-amp converter




12-volt, 4-amp hour rechargeable #BAT12 hattery

Battery charger kit for above #BC12K BAT12 (parts available though www. amazingl .com)





50-uamp meter shown with З-inch face Ml lO-meg, 1-watt resistor (br-bk-bl) R30-35 2 kHz lrimpot for meter adjust R36

1 OK pot and switch R37/S1

This chapter covers a project intended for high school-level experimenters. Supervision is suggested when working in the classroom. The unit operates from a low-voltage source of 12 volts direct current (VDC) or a battery (sec Figure 2-1). The circuit pro­duces 72 joules of capacitive energy siorage at 600 volts. This is labeled as a dangerous electrical device if the protective cover is removed. The unit must not be aimed or pointed in the direction of personal or breakable objects. Projectiles can reach a reasonably high velocity.

Lifter Troubleshooting Guide

Figure 2-1 Low-power electro-kinetic gun

This is an advanced iniermediate-level project requiring basic electronic skills. Expect to spend $35 to $45. All parts are readily available with specialized parts through Information Unlimited (www. amazingl .com) and are listed in Table 2-1 at the end of the chapter.

Tethering Setup

To complete the necessary tethering (see Figure 1- 21), follow these steps:

1. Attach tethers to the lifter. Using common household thread, attach three tie-down threads to the lifter, one at each corner of the lifter tied in a double knot around the vertical balsa strut at the poim where the strut meets the foil skirt wrapped around the lifter. Cut

Tethering Setup

Figure 1-20 Completed lifter assembly

Tethering Setup


1-21 Tethering the lifter craft

the thread lengths at approximately 1 foot in length each.

2. Attach tethers to the test surface. Use Scotch tape to attach the lengths of thread to the tesi surface. Place the thread under the tape with approximately 8 inches of thread extending from the tape in order to provide enough slack for the lifter to take off. When you have done this, you should be able to raise the lifter approximately 8 inches in height from the test surface and have all of the thread become taut at the same height. Note in Figure 1-21 how the three tie-downs (colored pieces of tape) are attached to the thread and the test surface is very close to the actual lifter itself. Slack can be adjusted so that the lifter remains stable once it has taken off from the test surface.

Testing Steps

The following steps are for testing out what you’ve built:

1. Preset trimpot R1 to midrange and RIO to full clockwise (CW). Set the spark gap to 1 to 1 ]/4 inches, as shown in Figure 1-9.

2. Obtain a 25-megohm, 20-watt high-voltage resistor. You can make one by connecting 25

1- meg, 1-watt resisiors in a scries and sleeving them into a plastic lube. Seal the ends with sil­icon rubber.

3. Obtain a 12-volt, DC, 3-amp puwer cunverter or a 12-volt, 4-amp rechargeable battery.

4. Connect up the input to the power converter and output to the 25-meg load resistor. Con­nect an oscilliscope set to read 100 volts and a sweep time of 5 usees to drain pin of Ql for viewing the signal wave shape as R1 is adjusted.

5. Apply power and quickly adjust R1 to the wave shape shown in Figure 1-2. The spark gap may fire intermittently and should be respaced just to the point of triggering. This is usually between 25 to 30 Kv.

6. Rotate RIO counterclockwise (CCW) and note the input current smoothly dropping almost to zero. This control varies the ratio of off to on time and nicely controls the system current to the lifter craft emitters.

This “off and on" switching provides a varying, realistic throbbing sound as the craft lifts and pro­duces more thrust.

Note: If you have access to a high-voltage probe meter, such as a B&K HV44, it will be possible to measure the direct output, noting 20 to 30 Kv across the 25-meg load resistor. This equates out to over 30 watts. You will see a smooth change in output as R10 is varied.

Note: The spark gap spacing adjustment and the spacing between the craft ion emitter wires and col­lectors are strongly dependent on one another. Fine – tune the system by setting the gap on the threshold of firing before the craft emitter wire starts to break down. Do not exceed 14i inches (38 mm).

The primary objective of the protective spark gap is to prevent damage to the craft as well as to the power supply circuit. Never allow a continuous breakdown to occur, as damage to the circuit may


You may now proceed to the craft assembly sec­tion. Figure 1-11 shows the assembly of a suggested launching pad.

The following information provides a step-by-step description of the methods and procedures involved with building a prototype electrokinetic propulsion device that is easily powered by the devicc shown in these plans. If properly constructed, this device will generate enough force to levitate itself from a resting surface.

1. Obtain the required materials:

• 2 mm by 6 mm balsa wood strips

• 30-gauge enameled copper magnet wire for high-voltage power leads

• 42- to 44-gauge stainless steel wire (for

lifter corona wire on the parts list)

• Aluminum foil

• One tube of superglue or a hot-glue gun

• Sewing thread

• One hobby knife

• One Scotch brand tape roll

2. Cut the balsa support struts (see Figure 1 -12) First, cut the balsa strips in half to create 2- millimeter by 3-millimeter strips. Cut these into two sets: one set of three struts 20 cen­timeters in length, and a second set of two struts 11 centimeters in length. Bevel the edges of each of the 20-centimeter struts to allow them to be glued later at an angle to the

11- centimeter struts. The beveling should be about 30 degrees in slope, and remember to bevel both ends on the same side of the balsa face.

3. Assemble the balsa struts (see Figure 1-13). Mark each of the 11-centimeter stiuts at the top (to help you remember which end is up)

CAUTION I Minor electric shocks are possible by charge accumlation to the body. You may want to insulate switches and controls

Suggested launch pad is made from an 18" equilateral triangle of thin aluminum grounded to HV return. You may also use four equal-sized triangles attached together.

A metal launch pod provides far better peiformance.

Testing Steps

Tether point using thread

Testing Steps

Testing Steps

and again at a mark 4 centimeters from the bottom. Sparingly use superglue to attach each of the three vertical 11-centimeter struts to a 20-centimeter horizontal strut as shown in the figure. In the figure, the beveled ends of the 20-centimeter struts have been glued at

right angles at the 4-centimeter mark on the vertical struts.

4. Complete the chassis assembly (see Figure 1- 14). Similar to the previous step, glue together the three pieces of the lifter frame using

Testing Steps

Figure 1-14 Assembled chassis frame

superglue. Glue the unconnected ends of the 20-centimeter struts to the other side of the 4- centimeter mark you created on the vertical strut. Ensure that the ends of the lifter line up as shown in the figure.

Cut an aluminum foil strip (see Figure 1-15). Cut a strip of aluminum foil 5 centimeters wide and approximately 1 meter in length. This foil strip will be used to surround the bottom part of the lifter.

Fold the foil around the chassis (see Figure 1- 16). Put glue on the 20-centimeter strip and hold it on the foil until it sets. Notice in the figure how the foil is even with the bottom of the vertical struts. If done correctly, you should have an extra 1 centimeter of foil above the 20-centimeter balsa horizontal strut. Roll the lifter chassis down the length of the foil, gluing each side of the chassis as you go. You must have an extra 1-centimeter lip above the horizontal struts to reduce ion leakage.

7. Fold down the foil edges (see Figure 1-17).

Cut the corners around the top of the 1 – cen­timeter lip above the horizontal struts and fold the foil over the top of the strut for each of the three lifter sides. Use a piece of Scotch tape cut in half lengthwise to hold the folded corners as close to the inside of the foil as pos­sible and reduce leakage.

8. Attach the ground wire to the foil (see Figure 1-18). Poke a small hole through the foil skirt and run the ground wire through it, as shown in the figure. The hole should be behind the strut so that the wire is supported by it. Make sure to strip the ground wire of its enamel coating before you connect it. The ground wire must have a section of bare copper to contact the foil in order to work. Give your­self about two extra feet of wire off the lifter to connect it to your power supply’s ground.

9. Attach the corona wire (see Figure 1-19). Approximately 3 centimeters up from the top of the foil, or about 2 centimeters from the

Testing Steps

Figure 1-15 Cutting of alumunum foil strip

Testing Steps

Figure 1-16 Gluing of alumunum strip to frame

Testing Steps

Figure 1-17 Folding over the aluminum foil edges

Figure 1-18 Connection of the ground feed wire

Testing Steps

Testing Steps

Figure 1-19 Attaching and connecting of the corona ion emitter wire

top of the vertical support struts, run a length of 4(J-gauge, 2.8-millimter corona wire around all three vertical struts and connect it to the 30-gauge power supply wire to be connected to the power supply. Make sure to loop the wire around each of the vertical struts at least once to ensure that they stay in place, and when you come back to the first vertical strut, tie the wire off so that the corona wire runs around the entire frame of the lifter.

If you have correctly followed the steps, you should have a lifter prototype identical to the one shown in Figure 1-20. Use the Testing Guide docu­ment to assist you with testing the lifter, and use the Troubleshooting document if you encounter prob­lems while testing.


Attaching the corona wire can be difficult to hold in place on the vertical struts, especially because the wire is so thin. One method is to use a tiny dab of hot glue to keep the wire in place at each post, thereby freeing your hands to wrap the wire around the next post.

Another way to hold the wire in place is to wrap it around the 30-gauge power-lead wire and then wrap the tip of the 30-gauge wire around the vertical strut. Using this method you can attach both wires to each other and the vertical post at the same time. Ensure that the tip of the 30-gauge wire is completely stripped of enamel before wrapping the corona wire around it.

Board Assembly Steps

To assemble the board, follow these steps:

1. Lay out and identify all the parts and pieces. Verify the separate resistors with the parts list, as they have a color code to determine their value. Colors are indicated on the parts list.

2. Fabricate a piece of.1-inch grid perforated board to a size of 7.2 X 2.6 inches. Locate and drill holes as shown in Figure 1-3. An optional PCB is available from Information Unlimited.

3. Fabricate the metal heat sink for Ql from a piece of.063-inch aluminum at 1.5 X.75 inches, as shown in Figure 1-4.

4. Assemble LI as shown in Figure 1-4.

5. If you are building from a perforated board, insert components starting in the lower left – hand corner, as shown in Figure 1-5 and 1-6. Pay attention to the polarity of the capacitors with polarity signs and all semiconductors. Route leads of components as shown and sol­der as you go, cutting away unused wires. Use certain leads as the wire runs or use pieces of the included #22 bus wire. Follow the dashed lines on the assembly drawing as these indi­cate connection runs on the underside of the assembly board. The heavy dashed lines indi – cate the use of thicker #20 bus wire, as this is a high-current discharge path and common ground connections. See Figures l-7a and l-7b for an expanded view.

6. Attach the external leads as shown. Figure 1-6 shows the construction of the safety spark gap made from pieces of #20 bus wire. This pre­vents high voltages from damaging circuit components when using light or no load con­nections. The circuit is not designed to operate with continual discharging and indicates a fault or too light of a load if it continually fires. See Figures l-7a and l-7b for an expanded view.

7. Double-check the accuracy of the wiring and the quality of the solder joints. Avoid wire

Board Assembly Steps

The assembly board is in two sections attached together by two outer 6-32 nylon screws and nuts. The middle hole is used to fasten the entire assembly to the base of the endosure.

The circuit section is 4.8” x 2.9" .1 x.1 perforeted board. The high-voltage Plexiglas section is 3.6 X 2.9" .063 thickness. Drill eight.063" holes in the perforated section and eleven in the Plexiglas section located as shown.

Drill the three.125" holes in both sections for attaching together.

Drill and drag the.125" slot as shown. This cutout and the enlarged holes are for mounting transformer T1 Using the optionally available printed circuit board will still require fabrication of the Plexiglas board Hole diameters are not critical.

Always use the lower t eft-hand corner of perf board for position reference.

Figure 1-3 Driver board fabrication

Board Assembly Steps

for both sides

Heatsink bracket assembly

HSINK Bracket fabricated as per step 3 from 1/16" aluminium piece. Note hole for attaching tab of Q1.

Board Assembly Steps

Board Assembly Steps

Figure 1-4 LI current feed inductor and heatsink bracket

Board Assembly Steps

Note polarity of C1.C4.C9. D3.D4, D12, and D20A-D20J Note position of 11.12. Q1

Fi g и ге I – 5 Parts iden tifi cat ion

bridges, shorts, and close proximity to other circuit components. If a wire bridge is neces­sary, sleeve some insulation onto the lead to avoid any potential shorts.

8. Fabricate a channel from a piece of ‘/іь-inch plastic material. Add it to the assembly and secure it at its comers using silicon rubber adhesive. You may also enclose it in a suitable plastic box as shown in Figures 1-8 and 1 -9. Figure 1-10 shows the simplified channel enclosure that does not include the meter M1.

Thick dashed lines are direct connection runs beneath board of #20 bus wire (WR20BUSS) and are extended for the spark switch electrodes

Board Assembly Steps

See Figures i-7a and i-7b for enlarged views of this figure.

Figure I-Б Wiring connections and external leads

Board Assembly Steps

Figure l-7a Enlarged view of wiring

Cut and paste 7a and 7b together

Board Assembly Steps

Figure l~7b Enlarged view of wiring

Board Assembly Steps

Figure 1-8 Final assembly showing metered enclosure

Board Assembly Steps

Detail ol end viewing safety vottage breakdown set to 25 to 30 Kv This scheme helps protect lifter craft and power supply from dangerous over-voftage breakdown

Figure 1-9 Final isometric view

Board Assembly Steps

The lower-cost GRA10 is a modular approach where the electronics assembly is secured into a ptastic channel CH1. Input and output leads are the same and R1 is a smaJI trimpot.

Assembly is secured via the center nylon screw

Figure 1-10 Alternate GRAlO assembly module

Rbout the Ruthor

Bob lannini runs Information Unlimited, a firm dedicated to the experimenter and tech­nology enthusiast. Founded in 1974, the company holds many patents, ranging from weapons advances to children’s toys. Mr. Iannini’s 1983 Build Your Own Laser, Phaser, Ion Ray Cun & Other Working Space-Age Projects, now out of print, remains a popular source for electronics hobbyists.


An antigravity project provides a means of levitating an object purely by electrical forces (see Figure 1-1). Motors, fans, jets, or magnets are not used. A propul­sive thrust is created by the reactionary forces of an ion wind. This phenomenon is an excellent means for future transportation once a few engineering prob­lems arc solved, and a vehicle could operate in an almost frictionless environment.

Construction requires minimal electronic experi­ence in building the electronics, as well as patience with a steady hand in constructing the craft. The proj­ect is presented into two sections, the ion power sup­ply and the craft. Expect to spend between $25 to $50 for parts, noting many are available through Informa­tion Unlimited (www. amazingl. com).The complete parts list is at the end of the chapter as Table 1-1.

Theory of Operation

The following equations show motion obtained via the reactionary effcct of a volume of air acceleratcd by electric charges. A thin, positively charged emitter wire is located in a charge that is in proximity to a smooth, attracting surface. Air particles are now charged in proximity to this thin emitter wire and are attracted to the negative space charge around the smooth surface. It appears that maximum thrust (or effect) requires moving as much air mass as fast as

possible in a given amount of time, expressed as the following:

Thrust = mv/t m = mass of air v = velocity t = time

The power input to produce this movement is related to (‘/2/mv2)/t energy in joules.

If we now define system efficiency as the ratio of “power out” to “power in.” we obtain

Eff – mv/t x 1/2 mv2/t = 2/v

Efficiency now becomes inversely proportional to the velocity of the air and therefore suggests the uti­lization of large masses or volumes at low velocities to be efficient. This is not to say that the effect on the maximum lifting capability follows these same guide­lines.

It is known that air molecules and ions are elastic on impact at low velocities. High velocities have a tendency to cause molecular disassociation with accompanying secondary ionization.

This secondary ionization will cause a net decrease in the reactionary effect or thrust due to a reversal of direction of the now oppositely charged particles. The objective now becomes to move as much mass as possible at a low velocity or energy where the maxi­mum amount of elastic collision takes place with a

Figure 1-1 Antigravity lifter in flight

minimum of destructive molecular disassociation and secondary ionization.

Your lifter requires a high DC voltage at a rela­tively low current. The driver power supply schematic is shown in Figure 1-2. It generates 30,000 volts at a load current of 1 milliampere (ma).This is usually suf – Ш ficient to power lifters up to 36 inches per side when properly constructed using up to lV2-inch emitter wire spacing. It easily powers the 8-inch unit shown in these instructions. Even though the current is low, improper contact can result in a harmless yet painful shock.

The output voltage of the driver is obtained using a Cockcroft Walton voltage multiplier with four to five stages of multiplication. Note this method of obtain­ing high voltages was used in the first atom smasher ushering in the nuclear age! This multiplier section requires a high-voltage/frequency source for input Input is supplied by a transformer (Tl) producing 6 to 8 kilovolts (Kv) at approximately 30 kilohertz (kHz). You will note that this transformer is a proprietary design owned by Information Unlimited. The part is small and lightweight for the power produced.

The primary part of Tl is current driven through an inductor (LI) and is switched at the desired fre­quency by a field-effect transistor (FET) switch (Ql). The capacitor (C6) is resonated with the primary of Tl and zero voltage switches when the frequency is properly adjusted. (This mode of operation is very similar to class E operation.) The timing of the drive pulses to Ql is therefore critical to obtain optimum operation.

The drive pulses are generated by a 555 timer cir­cuit (II) connected as an astable multivibrator with a

repetition rate determined by the setting of the trim – pot (Rl) and a fixed-value timing capacitor (C2).

II is now turned on and off by a second timer (12). This timer operates at a fixed frequency of 100 Hz but has an adjustable “duty cycle” (the ratio of the on to off time) determined by the setting of the control pot (R10). II is now gated on and off with this con­trolled pulse providing an adjustment of output power.

An over-voltage protection spark gap is placed across the output and is easily set to break down at 20 to 30 Kv. This usually is sufficient for lifters having a 2- to 3-centimeter separation between the emitter wire and the collector skirts. Even though the output is short circuit protected against continuous overload, constant hard discharging of the output can cause damage and must be limited. A pulse current resistor (R7) helps to protect the circuit from these potential catastrophic current spikes.

Power input is controlled by a switch (SI) that is part of the control pot (R10). The actual power can be a small battery capable of supplying up to 3 amps or a 12-volt. 3- to 5-amp converter for 115 uses. Power switch SI must be added to the GRA1 series or you must use other external means to power control.

Construction Steps

This section discusses the construction of the elec­tronic, ion-generating power supply and the lifter craft. The ion generator is built using a printed circuit board (PCB) that is individually available or you may use the more challenging perforated circuit board. The perforated board approach is more complicated, as the component leads must be routed and used as the conductive metal traces. It is suggested that you follow the figures in this section closely and mark the actual holes with a pen before inserting the parts. Start from a corner and proceed from left to right. Note that the perforated board is the preferred

approach for science projects, as the system looks more homemade. The PCB only requires that you identify the particular part and insert it into the respective marked holes. Soldering is then greatly simplified.