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WASSERFADDEN EXPERIMENT           1996 William Beaty
(WATER-THREAD)

Two brimful glasses of distilled (deionized) water are placed adjacent to each other on an insulating panel, and moved so their rims are nearly touching. A short length of (silk?) thread is wetted and placed so as to bridge across the rims of the glasses. A high voltage, low current power supply or Wimshurst electrostatic generator is connected to the water in the glasses, with one wire lead going to one glass, the other lead to the other.

When the high voltage power supply is turned on, the water is reported to move along the thread. If the thread is short and very thin, the fluid current will carry the thread along through the bridge. The thread will be entirely pumped into the ?NEGATIVE?? glass, but the conductive bridge of water will not break when the thread has left it. A short filament of pure water will remain between the glasses. If the high-voltage supply is disconnected, the water filament falls apart. If salt is added to the water, this also disrupts the filament. There are reports that the water in the core of the liquid thread moves in one direction, while water in the surrounding shell goes opposite.

Is this real? I don't know, I haven't tried the experiment myself. How can electrostatic forces counteract surface tension and give stable existence to a filament of water? What determines the thickness of the water thread? Could a single-molecule water chain be maintained against evaporation in this way? How about a network of H2O molecule chains, "electric water aerogels," or perhaps small rings of oriented H2O which need no power supply? Could giant waterthreads be made by using a 500KV power supply?

Why are there oppositely directed water currents in the thread? Does the filament structure require surface contaminants? Can a larger thread be made by using high power electrostatic supplies? Will nonconducting dye in the water show how the fluid current takes place?

Charles Yost, editor of ELECTRIC SPACECRAFT JOURNAL, has apparently discovered an atmospheric analog to the wasserfadden demo. In exploring spark discharges with a Schlerien optical system, he observed a polished spherical electrode which seemed to emit a narrow stream of charged wind when operated at high potential. The stream is visible in the Schlerien system as a thread apparently thinner than 1mm, and he has seen threads as long as ?5? cm. They transport charged air, as shown by microammeter readings from a probe stuck into the air-threads.

I FOUND IT! A friend mentioned that it was performed by Lord Armstrong (of steam-jet electrostatic generator fame.)
THE ELECTRICAL ENGINEER, FEB 10, 1893    P154
139-140 Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London, E.C.

Part of a lecture by Lord Armstrong on the hundredth anniversary of the
Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle-on-Tyne.

...Probably many of you are aware that soon after I introduced my 
hydro-electric [electrostatic] machine I designed and made a very large 
one for the Polytechnic Institution which then existed in London.  It 
proved to be by far the most powerful instrument for the production of 
frictional electricity that had ever been seen.  It was a very short time 
in my hands after its completion, and I made the best use of my time in 
trying experiments with it in the open air.  Amongst other experiments I 
hit upon a very remarkable one.  Taking two wine-glasses filled to the 
brim with chemically pure water, I connected the two glasses by a cotton 
thread coiled up in one glass, and having its shorter end dipped into the 
other glass.  On turning on the current, the coiled thread was rapidly 
drawn out of the glass containing it, and the whole thread deposited in 
the other, leaving, for a few seconds, a rope of water suspended between 
the lips of the two glasses.  This effect I attributed at the time to the 
existence of two water currents flowing in opposite directions, and 
representing opposite electric currents, of which the one flowed within 
the other and carried the cotton with it.  It required the full power of 
the machine to produce this effect, but, unfortunately, when it went to 
London, and was fitted up in the lecture-room, I could not get the full 
power on account of the difficulty of effecting as good insulation in a 
room as in the outside air.  I therefore failed in getting this result, 
after announcing that I could do it, and I daresay I got the credit of 
romancing.  It as ever since been my desire to establish my veracity in 
this matter, and with the powerful apparatus now at my command, I speedily 
succeeded in reproducing the experiment in a modified form.  In fact, I 
have done it in different forms; but the one which I shall show you this 
evening is as striking as any, and can be performed with the single 
induction coil which I have upon the table.  The conditions of the 
experiment are as follows: I take a glass bulb having a long neck on one 
side and a short nozzle on the other, the nozzle having an aperture of 
one-tenth of an inch diameter.  Through this aperture a strong composed of 
spongy cotton thread is passed.  The string is barely sufficiently thick 
to fill the aperture, and is secured at the upper end by a knot or by 
attachment to a conducting wire, which enters the bulb through a cork at 
the top of the neck.  The bulb is then plunged into a glass cistern, and 
both bulb and cistern are filled with carefully distilled water, and the 
cork is tightly inserted in the neck.  The whole is placed in the field of 
the lantern [projector] so as to be exhibited on the screen.  And now, all 
being ready, we will send a positive current into the bulb, and make the 
cistern negative, and if I am not again sold, as I was at the Polytechnic, 
you will see the cotton climb up into the bulb.  You see it is so, and now 
I reverse the current and it comes rapidly down.  Those who are near will 
see that there is a clear indication of water rushing out of the aperture 
all round the cotton.  The water in passing the aperture becomes a little 
heated, and is rendered visible by a flicker, just as hot air becomes 
visible when it mingles with cold.  But the bulb remains full, and if 
water comes out without lessening the quantity in the bulb, an equivalent 
quantity must be going in by the same aperture, and as the descending 
column visibly flows outside the cotton the ascending current must flow 
inside the cotton, and must carry the cotton with it.  The two currents 
become distinctly visible when the cotton is removed, and though we cannot 
discern their relative position until they are clear of the aperture, the 
facts of the case seem to demonstrate that the negative current flows 
inside the positive and determines the direction in which the cotton 
travels.  This conclusion appears to me a very interesting one, and may 
tend to elucidate the relationship between positive and negative currents.  
WHen the cork is omitted the level of the water in the bulb is free to 
rise or fall, but it remains stationary under the compensating action of 
two currents.  This, however, is not the case when the cotton is 
in operation without the cork, because the cotton impedes the current which 
moves it and gives the ascendancy to the outside current, and thereby 
lowers the level of the water in the bulb.  The contrary effect is, of 
course, produced by reversing the electric current, and the water then 
rises in the bulb above the level of the water in the cistern...


Ah, so apparently this wasn't replicated in the 1800s because only Armstrong owned any electrostatic generators capable of the hundreds-microamps output required. His was the multiple-steam-jet type with the coal-fired boiler; a HVDC supply of almost industrial power levels. (In physics, new instruments reveal new phenomena otherwise inacessible!) Perhaps a Wimshurst machine could do this, if it was the 5ft diameter type used in 1910 hospitals as x-ray supplies. My own brief testing shows that unregulated (transformer+diodes) supplies won't do it: the effect won't appear if significant 60Hz hum is present. On the other hand, DDW water on a very clean acrylic plate will do very odd things when connected to any DC supply above about 5KVDC. The "Threads" easily form and attain impressive length if allowed to crawl like snakes across a sheet of plexi.

LINKS


SOME EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE


Date: Sat, 27 Jul 1996 09:37:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ivan Korsund 
Reply-To: freenrg-l eskimo com
Subject: wasser thread 

I have observed what I believe to be a natural demonstration  
of the wasser thread.  On two different occasions in the  
mojave desert I have observed a unique type of flash flood.  
Both times the temperature was in excess of 120 degrees F. and 
there were extreme electrical disturbance in the atmosphere. I 
had noticed a down pour over some nearby hills and was  
carefully watching for any signs of a flash flood when a tube  
of water exited the hills and proceeded to jump and bounce  
along the desert floor. What was remarkable was that on these  
two different occasions the water retained a tubular  
shape (snake like) for its entire length (~100 feet) and  
traveled each time approximately 1/2 mile before breaking up.  
I have been told by some older indians of that area that there  
are stories of this event happening in the distant past 

Any comments would be appreciated  Ivan


Date: Thu, 24 Aug 1995 10:56:00 -0700
From: Ivan Korsund 
To: William Beaty 
Subject: Re: wasser thread 

I was never close enough to the phenomenon to feel or touch anything. On
one occasion I tried to find the area where it broke up and traced its
path back a few hundred M but noticed nothing unusual. Evaporation
had reduced it to an almost dry pool. The old Indian I spoke to about it
had made a comment that the legends indicated that the water snake was
lethal, so I wouldn't suggest to anyone to try to touch it if they are
lucky enough to see one.  I don't think I mentioned that the tube was
approximately 2M in diameter.  The area of the desert where I saw
both of these was about 10 miles south of the Solar One electric
generator. I saw the first one in the early 60's and the other one about
1980.  



 





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