Power Tripping

High-voltage engineer Greg Leyh builds the largest Tesla coils in the world.

By David PescovitzPhotograph by Jonathan Sprague

GREG LEYH IS A POWER BROKER. VOLTS. Watts. Joules. Amperes. He trades in them all. His aim? Nothing short of lightning-on-demand.

At Maker Faire in May, Leyh premiered his twin Tesla coils, two stately and elegant 10-foot towers that spewed 18-foot arcs between them. Amazingly, the twins are just one-twelfth-scale prototypes for the pair he plans to build at his Nevada Lightning Laboratory. Those coils will fill a football field-sized tract of land with 18 million volts of lightning.

For Leyh, high voltage is a way of life. His company, based just south of San Francisco in the small city of Brisbane, ...

Get Make: Technology on Your Time Volume 11 now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.