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Absence of Shock Hazard with Certain Multigap Spark Circuits


I HAVE found that the shock hazard associated with some electric spark generators is not so great as is generally believed and can be reduced to negligible proportions by appropriate design. Kaiser and Wallraff1 and others have shown that spark-gap voltages are quite low (order of 50 V.) during discharge and that, in a twin-gap circuit similar to circuit 2, a high voltage appears across the gap G 2 for only a fraction of a microsecond at the beginning of each discharge. Since it is known that the human body can tolerate high-voltage pulses of very short duration, a reasonable inference is that little or no shock should be felt on touching the electrodes of G 2, provided the gap continues to break down in normal fashion. Most people would be reluctant to put this to the test, and I have not seen any report of it having been done.

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  1. Kaiser, H., and Wallraff, A., Ann. Physik, 34, 297 (1939).

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  2. Gilbert, T. C., Elect. Times, 117, No. 3035, 47 (1950).

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  3. Enns, J. H., and Wolfe, R. A., Amer. Soc. Test. Mat., Spec. Tech Pub. No. 76 (1948); and J. Opt. Soc. Amer., 39, 298 (1949).

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SINCLAIR, D. Absence of Shock Hazard with Certain Multigap Spark Circuits. Nature 177, 1175–1176 (1956).

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