It took a few weeks to hunt down some good high voltage power lines, but it was well worth it. Now I can light up fluorescent tubes by simply holding them in the air!


My videos have been coming out poorly due to this having to be at night and with low lighting, but hopefully I'll have something soon. In the meantime, enjoy these photos that my brother took of me messing around with the fluoros:

What is this?

You may or may not be aware of a phenomenon whereby holding fluorescent tubes below high voltage power lines causes them to light up. I think the ones I was below were 275kV, but I'm really not sure (I looked up tower sizes and structures as references). It likely won't work below regular residential lines.

I've read a few different theories that people have come up with as to why this works, but my current understanding is that the electric field emanating from the lines is strong enough to create a sufficient potential across the terminals to turn on the tubes. It's not as bright as if you plugged it into the wall at home, but it's good enough to see it all work.

This theory seems to be supported by the following observation. When I'm standing below the power lines, with rubber thongs on, I can lower tubes close enough to the ground that they just turn off. Then I take one foot out of its thong, and then as soon as I touch my now bare foot to the ground, the tube turns on. This seems to be because my body would offer a lower resistance path for current to flow through than my rubber thong. It's pretty cool; you can tap your foot on the ground to turn the tube on and off!

Why did I do this?

I can't really remember why. I think I saw a video about it, did some research, which consisted of finding random forums via Google that really weren't any help. I thought it was so cool that I wanted to try it.

So I went and bought a bunch of fluoro tubes and then I hit up Google Maps to find a good high voltage power line to try out, as the power distribution companies seem to release little info on the voltages of specific transmission systems around the place.

I tried a few different locations, and nothing worked because I was too far away from the power lines (or their voltage was too low). At this point, I was under the impression that the tube had to be in the ground (as seen on some videos), but I later discovered this to be incorrect. It wasn't wrong, it just wasn't necessary for operation. I then bought an EM-field meter from China, which to be honest, didn't really help at all, but at least I had a tool to see if fields were strong enough or not in given areas.

Finally, I was out driving one night and I spotted a rather low high voltage tower on an elevated area. Fortunately, I'd kept the fluoros in the boot of my car because I'd been hunting for a good location, so I stopped, grabbed them, and it worked!

Extra Notes

This project was completed in early 2016, just before my final year of electrical engineering began.

In the course of this project, I used and learnt about:

-Not too much, mainly just that my body can channel current from the power lines, and that persistence pays off