Watch a Faraday cage dress take a million volts of electricity

Fashiontech designer Anouk Wipprecht built a dress that can protect the wearer while taking a million volts from giant Tesla coils.

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Kyle Cothern/Anouk Wipprecht

We get excited about Tesla coils, but they are pretty dangerous. Those long, stunning arcs of electrical power can cause you serious harm -- even death. Unless, that is, you are appropriately attired; and what could be more appropriate than haute couture?

Netherlands-based "fashiontech" designer Anouk Wipprecht -- whose creations include a dress with robotic, flexing spider legs around the neckline and another that functions as a smoke machine -- has created just such a garment.

The dress itself -- made for a collaboration with Tesla coil band ArcAttack for this year's MakerFaire -- is made of a combination of plate and chain mail, with 3D printed plasma ball mounts on the shoulders and a spiked helmet with a grille on the front.

"In order to protect the head from the aggression of 2x half-a-million volts of Tesla coil madness (as I stood in between approximately 1 million volts of electricity), we needed to protect my head, so we created a prototype helmet from full metal at the ArcAttack workshop in Austin, Texas," Wipprecht wrote on Instructables, where she detailed the process of designing and building the dress (with a disclaimer not to try it at home).

The finished dress acts as a Faraday cage -- a protective shield made of conductive material that distributes charge around its exterior, while cancelling the charge within -- keeping whatever is inside the cage from being electrocuted. This is why aeroplane passengers are safe from lightning -- the conductive aluminium hull acts as a large Faraday cage.

Wipprecht wore the suit herself, as she told Popular Science. No one else was game. "Normally I work with fashion models," she said. "But this time, nobody else wanted to wear it."

 

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