How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 713

Do sparks generated by Tesla coils shock humans? If not, why not? - AW
A Tesla coil is radio-frequency transformer that produces small currents of very high-energy electric charges. A radio frequency alternating current passes through the primary coil of this transformer and it induces a current in the secondary coil of the transformer. The frequency of the alternating current must be extremely high because there is no iron in the core of the transformer to store energy during a cycle, so that each cycle must be very brief. Because the alternating current flowing out of the secondary coil of the transformer has a very high frequency, it travels over the surface of a conductor, rather than through its center. Thus when you allow that current to pass through you, it goes along your skin and not through your body. As a result, you barely feel its passage except perhaps as surface heating (however, it can cause what is called an "RF burn" in some cases.) Also, the current from a typical Tesla coil is very small so it would barely be noticeable even if it went through your body.

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