Threadlike streams of "Electric wind"
Page 3: Experiments so far

  • Implications, musings, ideas to try


  • polarity doesn't seem to matter. Resistive sharp electrodes charged either + or - will create the "threads."

  • they seem to flow in a direction which is always away from a sharp electrode tip and towards a flat surface, regardless of polarity. They bore small holes into the layer of white CO2/H2O mist above the water, creating little visible toroid-flows of air where they impact the surface. No mist is visibly drawn upwards along the "thread", instead it seems to be blasted outwards along the surface of the water, outwards from the location where the thread touches down.

  • 11/99 While messing with airthreds at the Dale T. lab, I discovered that wet fingers produce them. Dry fingers only produce them if there are bits of clothing-lint or knuckle-hairs (or sharp burrs on fingernails.) However, when I wet one of my fingers to make shirt-lint adhere, I discovered that lint was unnecessary, and strong airthreads would form, just from the wetted surface. I think this implies that sometimes the threads are composed of microscopic fluid droplets I bet this effect is the same as the known Taylor-cone electrospray or "spitting cusp" phenomenon that develops whenever a charged sphere-electrode is held close over a water surface. The water surface humps up and forms a sharp cusp-shape which spews droplets.

  • 9/99 The "threads" can survive in a zero-field region. I made a crude "thread gun" and passed a thread through a grounded "accelerator ring" composed of an aluminum bundt pan. I didn't expect this to work, since the hole in the pan is shielded and relatively field-free. Yet the thread did come out the other side. Once I've set up a thread-emitter, I find that I can cup my hands very closely around the path of the invisible thread, yet this does not eliminate the furrow in the "witness-plate" fog layer. Evidently the threads either have enough inertia to survive the field-free regions temporarily, and to traverse many cm of zero-field space... or they need no fields at all once they have been created. Their behavior is not simply that of ionized wind. They act WEIRD!

  • 9/99 I made a crude oscilloscope using a "thread" as the writing beam. By applying 4KV 60Hz to a metal sphere adjacent to a "thread", I managed to spread it's fog-mark out into a 2cm line. When I move my hand in the DC field, the thread moves. When I move my hand quickly, the thread sweeps across the fog, leaving a beautiful sine wave mark which was produced by the AC voltage on the metal sphere. What if the power line waveform had glitches? They would be visible! It's an electromechanical oscilloscope with no vacuum required. If the "thread" was merely a stream of charged air, would a 60Hz e-field be able to move it sideways through the atmosphere like this?

  • Nikola Tesla's famous "death ray" plans are really just plans for creating an orfice in a vacuum chamber without letting in the air. Verrrrry interesting. Suppose the "air threads" are not air, but instead are composed of tiny pieces of the sharp electrode. If true, then they could exist in a vacuum environment. They could be accelerated to relativistic velocities with a set of AC linac electrodes. What if the thread was a microampere with a MV total acceleration potential? It would deliver a watt of power to anything it touched, and if the thread diameter is a fraction of a millimeter, it would heat surfaces to incandescence! Imagine a "laser pointer" which could leave a charred path!
  • my hands emit these "threads" when held near the charged plate! Only certain spots on my hands do this, only some fingertips do it. Knuckle-hairs do, as do apparently flat areas of skin. Tiny fibers there? Or a large sweatgland pore? I can wipe the "thread emitters" away. Rubbing my hands on clothing or a rug seems to restore the "emitters" but in new locations. SEEMS TO BE FROM LINT FIBERS. IN DARKNESS, THREAD-EMITTERS HAVE A GLOWING BLUE DOT AT THEIR TIP. [Try observing with 1st-Gen image intensifier]

  • To guarantee that my hands emit the threads, my skin must be moist and full of lint. If I wet my fingertips and then brush them across my clothing, my fingertips will begin emitting numerous threads and can carve numerous parallel furrows in the fog. -9/99

    - Hairs emit these threads. If I hold the bare side of my arm above the mist tray, I'll see just a few black spots where threads touch down. If I turn my arm over so the hairy side faces down, a great many furrows appear, maybe several hundred. Occasionally I see a very "powerful" ion-thread, one which can extend itself more than 2ft, and when the emitter is close to the mist, it makes a 10cm circle of roiling disruption. These super-threads come from very thin pieces of lint, far thinner than hair. Perhaps they are more conductive than other fibers? Or perhaps they are simply sharper. STEEL-WOOL WHISKERS AND CARBON FIBERS ACT AS 'SUPER THREAD" EMITTERS TOO.

    - if I tap upon the HV wire with a finger, the furrow in the mist jerks after a short delay, maybe .05sec for 13cm, that's five MPH (can't visualize KPH)

    - the smaller, weaker "air threads" seem to be much narrower than 1mm. How can they move so fast without turbulence! Or does their short time-delay response come from a sort of electrostatic "stretched long rubber band" effect, where the air itself moves slower than the waves which propagate along on the "band"?

    - When I used a soda straw and blew upon a thread with all my might, the dot in the mist only moved a little. The 5mm dot was changed to a 10mm x 30mm blotch. INCREDIBLY BIZARRE! The air blast either causes the thread to spread out into a narrow fan, or it causes it to vibrate at high speed so that the thread tip traces out an oblong blotch in the mist. These threads are robust! Not at all like smoke, they are more like carbon-fiber spiderwebs under high linear tension.

    - If I interrupt the path of a "thread" by using a plastic pen, it is deflected by the pen depending on the polarity of the pen's surface charge. The plastic is damp, and I tried touching the tray with a finger to alter the polarity of the pen's charge, and found attraction or repulsion of the threads. When the plastic pen is polarized to repel the threads, and the pen is brought near, the thread is pushed farther and farther from its original path, then it suddenly skips to the other side of the pen. If I "push" it with the pen tip, it swerves very fast around the tip. Like pushing an electron beam with a charged object in a vacuum chamber! But at 1-Atm pressure on my kitchen table! Cool!

    - Threads seem to curve towards the charged plate. If I rotate my hand, the tracing of furrows in the mist are showing that the threads don't extend straight out from my skin. Perhaps they follow the lines of the electric field. (So if they could be made visible, they would be like electrostatic iron filings?) However, they don't seem to repel each other very much. I've seen two threads with 5mm spacing between them, yet they were 15cm long. If they were highly charged, they would repel apart. If they are ions, there must be both polarities of ions involved, so that the charge of the thread is very weak in relation to the charge on the metal tray.

    - I've seen pairs of threads come from a fingernail top, extend down about 10cm and apparantly follow the field lines, all the while maintaining a distance from each other of about 1cm! They don't seem to repel each other much.

    - The "fingernail pair" of threads above, when I placed my finger so the emitter-points faced upwards, still curved around 180deg to loop downwards and impact on the mist layer below. But now the separation between them grew to 4cm. Though invisible, I can almost "see" them curving and separating while spewing upwards from my fingernail, like two streams from an invisible fountain.

    - some "threads" are up to 60cm long! Very strange to wiggle the HV cable more than 2 feet away from the mist pool, yet see the trace of a thread-tip moving in the mist. The longer ones seem to fan out towards their far end, to maybe 1cm diameter.

    - each stream seems to fall apart at a particular distance. They are weaker near their tips, then they simply end. However, this might be caused by my increasing the distance between the charged plate and the sharp hairs. Increasing the distance might lower the e-field at the electrode-tip and cause the thread to vanish entirely, even though it seems as if I am pulling the end of the thread away from the fog-layer so that it's tip no longer reaches the plate. [Must try making a thread-gun which sends the beam into zero-field space. Then explore the "thread tip" behavior.]

    - I can't get a view of the streams by forcing them to flow across the mist. They refuse. They always curve down to the plate and hit it roughly at right angles.

    - I briefly saw a VISIBLE air-thread. A piece of lint was standing on end in the water on the charged plate. When I brought my hand above it, a white "needle" appeared above the lint and extended vertically to my hand as the air-thread sucked the mist along with it. Then the lint aparently leaped upwards to my hand, wrecking the effect.

    - I can see a tiny time-delay when I wiggle a long fingertip-thread, so the speed of the effect might be around 10mph or so, not instantaneous

    - A sewing needle does not generate an ion-thread, while most types of fabric fibers or human hairs do. A single human eyelash, clamped with a small alligator clip, works very well as an electrode. I suspect that when using much larger electrodes, the cause of the threads is always a tiny and very, very sharp fiber or object adhering to the electrode (or, existing surface defects.) Perhaps any surface-defects are atomically sharp, and this is an example of "field emission;" of charged-particle emission which does not require a hot filament. Perhaps dull objects such as sewing needles can only generate air-threads whenever much higher voltages are employed. From my experiences with VandeGraaff machines, I find that sewing needles will cause air-flows of much larger diameter. I've heard that atomically-sharp tungsten needles can be formed by evaporating the tip of a tungsten wire in burning acetylene. STEEL WOOL WHISKERS MAKE POWERFUL AIR-FLOWS.

    - I connected a microamp meter in series with the plate. It indicated zero. When I let the other HV wire create one furrow in the mist, the meter indicated zero UA. When I brought the cable close, so there were maybe 50 to 70 furrows being drawn along the mist, the meter started flickering, indicating approx. 0.5uA. These ion-streams, if that's what they are, are each delivering an electric current in the range of 10 nanoamperes or less. Jeeze. No wonder nobody ever notices them.

    - I can't see any effects from a 3/4" neodymium magnet. At 10nA, the magnetism around each thread must be incredibly small.

    - I searched for optical deflection caused by air density variations in the threads, viewing them in darkness while backlit by a bare flashlight bulb and by the spread-out light of a laser pointer with its collimating lens removed. Nothing. They don't cast visible shadows on a screen, and don't appear as little glass fibers when I look down the beam of the laser. According to Charles Yost's FOUCAULT MIRROR TEST camera setup, I expected them to cast shadows and be directly viewable. Perhaps his threads are denser (higher total current.) I did note that the chips of charged dry ice are emitting columns of frost specks upwards (very visible in the scattered light viewed looking towards the laser. Frost builds up on the surface of the dry ice, stands on end because of the surface charge, and the fragments occasionally detatch and float upwards along the flux direction.)

    - I guided an air-thread onto the tiny frost-forest on a chip of dry ice. The frost needles jerked, then a small patch of them collapsed and melted. Aha, the air-thread is transporting a jet of warm air downwards into the chilled boundary layer. If I used a very tiny air-thread, maybe I could use it as a "pencil", and melt my initials into the frost. Tiny carbon-dioxide civilizations would see mysterious writing form in their crops, as if by magic. Hmmmmmm. Crops!

    - Fibers from extra-fine steel wool can be used to create air-threads. A sewing needle didn't work well, it probably was not sharp enough.6/9

    - A steel-wool fiber, when held within 3cm of the charged surface, began oscillating at its resonant frequency, and appeared to blur out into a fan shape. Possibly the jet of air at the tip of the fiber can propel the fiber sideways, and the direction of the jet is altered by the changing e-fields and by motion of the fiber, so it "thrusts" in a pattern which causes the steel fiber vibrations to increase (or sometimes to rotate, which moves the fiber in a small circle at fairly high frequency. Self-organizing plasma-ion thruster!). 6/9

    - Without the mist, I observed the water surface by bouncing fanned-out laser light from it at a glancing angle and onto a white screen. The air-thread from a steel wool fiber caused a dimple in the water which created a bright spot in the patch of light on the screen. The same air-thread caused a 5cm patch of roiling turbulence in the dry-ice mist. The more usual, Feeble air-threads did not cause observable dimples. It seems that the mist technique is far more sensitive than direct viewing of the dimpled water surface. I wonder what the air- threads will do to the colored banding of a soap bubble?

    - I attempted to view possible shadows of air-threads by using fanned-out laser light. Nothing. Yost had success, but he was using a proper Scheliern Photography setup, and his air-threads had hundreds of times higher current (approx 20uA).

    - I noticed a "dotted line" pattern in one linear furrow in the mist layer. As I moved my arm along, one particular thread-emitter seemed to be "sputtering" at a continuous pulse rate of a few 10s of Hz. Could be from one arm-hair discharging to an adjacent one? I bet that if a carbon-fiber thread emitter was grounded through a relay or other HV switch, the connection could be pulsed and this would pulse the air-thread's velocity. A row of these devices, if swept broadside across the mist, could act like a "ink-jet printer" and paint any pattern across the mist. It should be easy to use an oscilloscope and a pulsed air-thread to measure the air velocity within the thread. 6/13

    - By gluing a 1cm carbon fiber to a small floating "island" of Al foil, I was able to make one of the stronger threads visible. It launched itself upwards from the mist layer, and appeard as a 7mm tall jet of white mist with a very narrow dark core (about .5mm core dia.) The entrained mist-jet was laminar for about 5cm, then turned turbulent above this height. I couldn't see if the dark core also became turbulent. At the tip of the fiber I could see streams of mist moving inwards in 3D from all directions, as if the tip of the fiber was the mouth of a tiny suction hose (like gasses surrounding a black hole!) The high-speed vertical jet is very narrow, and barely interferes with this contracting sphere of incoming air. The carbon fiber was covered with water droplets, and the air-thread would vanish unless my hand was held about 5cm above its tip. This is different than when the fiber is supported above the water and aimed downwards: when aimed upwards under mist, the tip voltage needs to be much larger. The mist droplets must interfere with the e-fields at the tip. 6/14/98

    - In the dark with a flashlight, sometimes I see dust motes floating in the air between my hand and the mist. If I move an air-thread around in the volume containing the dust mote, I can eventually score a "hit" an the dust mote vanishes, no doubt yanked downwards at several meters per second by the core of the air-thread. 6/14

    - I tried to grab a "thread" with a hook cut from paper. The paper simply repels the threads. However, the mist was raked by a pattern of parallel threads, and the result resembles the details of the cut paper! I found that, sure enough, if I sweep a torn paper edge over the mist, it rakes a pattern across the mist which resembles the structure of the torn edge. The torn edge seems to launch a great many parallel air-threads downwards. I bet I could bend the paper into a shape, and see the shape appear in the mist. Or even write entire words using edge-on paper, then stamp them into the mist! 6/14

  • [GIF: click to download]
    Fig. 4 A large number of separate threads are pouring downwards from the fiberous edge of this suspended triangular paper tube (held by grounded yellow cliplead). They punch a dark triangular slot in the mist below. Mist which approaches this slot is forced down into the water, resulting in a mist-free triangle. Dry ice chip to the left.

    [GIF: click to download]
    Fig. 5 Now the triangular paper tube is closer to the charged mist tray, and a floating chip of dry-ice is within the "slot" created by the rows of parallel air threads. The center of the triangular area fills with mist, but any mist droplets which meet the wall of air-threads are forced to meld with the water surface. (Some mist leaks out at the right.)
    - The preceding suggestion does work. A paper triangular cylinder 4cm on a side, held about 25cm above the mist, created a fairly clean triangular shape in the mist. The triangular slot in the mist was about 2x larger than the paper shape which generated it. The edge of the paper had to be torn using a straightedge. Cut paper edges do not work, there are not enough stray fibers. I bet that serrated-edge dressmaker scissors would work though. The threads create a slot, and if there is no chip of floating dry ice inside the triangular slot, a dark, mist-free triangular shape is the result. 6/25

    - Single hairs make for very thin "threads" which punch tiny holes into the mist layer. Steel or carbon whiskers make huge, high-velocity threads which create large disks of disrupted mist. The difference could indicate laminar flow in the small threads, turbulent flow in the large ones. The difference apparantly comes from the differing series resistance of the emitter. If I dampen a human hair which had been producing a feeble thread, then it's "thread" becomes thick, with vigorous air flow and larger footprint on the mist layer. - 6/25

    - Tried some liquid Nitrogen droplets as mist generators. Terrible! the ejected gas moves too fast, and so it does not invade the boundary layer at the water surface, and instead pours upwards from each droplet in a cloud. The goal is to form a dense, opaque layer less than 1cm deep. An ultrasonic humidifier is barely successful. Dry ice chips work wonderfully. -6/25

    [GIF: click to download]

    Fig. 6 An "air thread shoots upwards

    - I briefly made a tornado. With a carbon fiber jutting up from the water about 1cm, and a 10cm grounded brass sphere suspended about 10cm above it, a turbulent cone-shaped mist flow erupted upwards from the vicinity of the fiber, with a spiral inwards flow in the surrounding mist at the water's surface. No spiral in the "tornado" itself, instead it looked like a V-shaped jet of smoke, apparantly shooting violently upwards from a (nonexistent) hole in the surface of the water. I wonder if the air-flow pattern at the fiber tip might look like a spiral galaxy (with a radio beam exiting up along the axis?) Add a weird howling sound, and the mist jet it would be identical to films that I've seen made of the lowest 10ft of a real tornado. -6/25

    - In normal operation, the potential on the mist tray can jump a 5mm spark between a pair of 8cm polished brass spheres. What is this, something like 15000v? Wimpy! What would a really huge voltage do?

    - with a good strong fingertip-thread I can write my first name quickly enough in the mist that the first letter hasn't faded before I complete the last. :) Feels strange to be writing with an "invisible pencil" which extends about 6" off the end of my thumb!

    NEXT: Implications, musings, ideas to try


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