Van de Graaf Maintenance
Name: Andy L.
Date: Sunday, May 05, 2002
My Van de Graaf generator is producing little or no
charge. I know humidity is a factor, but what can I do to get better
charges (bigger lightning streaks) Does the belt "wear out" and need
replaced? Is there something I can tighten? Add dust to the room? How
much humidity is too much? Is stagnant air better than circulating air?
I want my demonstrations to be as dramatic as they can be.
1. Yes, the belts do wear out. We find that we must replace about every 15
2. Your roller may be dirty. Clean them with toilet tissue or lens
cleaning tissue and alcohol. Cotton swabs also work. It would be a good
idea to clean the outside of the dome, too.
3. The larger the dome on the grounding sphere, the larger the spark.
4. Humidity above 90% usually causes problems. I have gotten nice sparks
even during thunder storms with the windows open.
5. Dust is not recommended.
6. I have found no difference in air circulation.
---Nathan A. Unterman
Click here to return to the Physics Archives
Update: June 2012