An induction coil or "spark coil" (archaically known as a Ruhmkorff coil after Heinrich Ruhmkorff) is a type of disruptive dischargecoil. It is a type of electrical transformer used to produce high-voltage pulses from a low-voltage direct current (DC) supply. To create the flux changes necessary to induce voltage in the secondary, the direct current in the primary is repeatedly interrupted by a vibrating mechanical contact called an interrupter. Developed beginning in 1836 by Nicholas Callan and others, the induction coil was the first type of transformer. The term 'induction coil' is also used for a coil carrying highfrequency alternating current (AC), producing eddy currents to heat objects placed in the interior of the coil, in induction heating or zone melting equipment.

Antique induction coil used in schools, Bremerhaven, Germany

The induction coil is basically a step-up transformer, but its efficiency is low due to its cylindrical design. Much of the primary flux is lost, however the cylinder shape enables the insulation to be better formed, and this is necessary for the larger coils that can produce sparks several centimetres in

and operates by s itc ing on and off rapidly a large DC current in the primary coil. creating a magnetic field. storing energy in the associated magnetic field. typically consists of many (thousands turns of fine wire. Because of the common core. is made from relatively few (tens or hundreds turns of coarse wire. the magnetic field rapidly collapses.le e c c l is a pulse trans rmer. When the primary current is suddenly interrupted. called the p ma y w nd ng. WORKING OF IND ION COIL An induction coil consists of two coils of insulated copper wire wound around a common iron core. An electric current is passed through the primary. the s conda y w nd ng. . The other coil. most of the primary s magnetic field couples with the secondary winding. One coil. The primary behaves as an inductor.

Opposite potentials are induced in the secondary when the interrupter 'breaks' the circuit and 'closes' the circuit. the spring closes the contacts again. Induction coils use a magnetically activated vibrating arm called an in up or b ak to rapidly connect and break the current flowing into the primary coil. When the magnetic field then collapses. The interrupters on small coils were mounted on the end of the coil ne t to the iron core. the current change in the primary is much more abrupt when the interrupter 'breaks'. the secondary voltage pulse is typically many thousands of volts. THE INTERRUPTER To operate the coil continuously. However. the DC supply current must be broken repeatedly to create the magnetic field changes needed for induction.This causes a high voltage pulse to be developed across the secondary terminals through electromagnetic induction. When the contacts . This voltage is often sufficient to cause an electric spark. to jump across an air gap separating the secondary s output terminals. breaking a pair of contacts in the primary circuit. For this reason. Because of the large number of turns in the secondary coil. induction coils were called spark coils. an '8 inch' (20 cm) induction coil was one that could produce an 8 inch arc. The size of induction coils was usually specified by the length of spark it could produce. The magnetic field created by the current flowing in the primary attracts the interrupter's iron armature attached to a spring. and the cycle repeats.

demonstrating how the interrupter works. is proportional to the rate of change (slope) of the primary current. which causes much faster switching and higher voltages. v2 shown in red. the current falls to zero suddenly. The voltage induced in the secondary. when the interrupter contacts open.close. A "snubber" capacitor of 0. it is the 'break' that generates the coil's high voltage output. In contrast. Both the "make" and "break" of the current induce pulses of voltage in the secondary. but the current change is much more abrupt on "break". . i1 is the current in the coil's primary winding. the current builds up slowly in the primary because the supply voltage has a limited ability to force current through the coil's inductance. So the output waveform of an induction coil is a series of alternating positive and negative pulses. So the pulse of voltage induced in the secondary at 'break' is much larger than the pulse induced at 'close'. It is broken periodically by the vibrating contact of the interrupter. but with one polarity much larger than the other.5 to 15 F is used across the contacts to quench the arc on the 'break'. and this generates the high voltage pulses produced by the coil. The blue trace. . Waveforms in the induction coil.

To induce a current in the secondary. The interrupter shown here works in the following manner. . This is accomplished by a device known as an interrupter. the current in the primary is rapidly turned on and off. like the one shown here. the interrupter was a physically separate unit. This will only happen when there is a change in the magnetic flux created by the primary. In the simplest designs.MAKING AND BREAKING EFFECT THROUGH DIAGRAM A steady current in the primary does not induce a voltage in the secondary. In the more sophisticated systems. the interrupter was an integral part of the coil.

the interrupter's contacts are closed again and current flows to the primary. Since the core is no longer magnetized. the iron hammer (a) on the end of the contact arm is pulled to the magnetized iron contact (b) at the end of the primary's iron core. The result is a rapid turning on and off of the current to the primary. This breaks the interrupter's contacts (c) which stops the flow of current to the primary.When current is applied to the primary coil. . the contact arm then returns to its normal resting position. When this happens. It is the repetitive establishment and collapse of the primary's magnetic field that induces the high voltage in the secondary coil.

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