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I would like to make a Van der Graff generator for my science fair project out of aluminized mylar. Do you think this might be feasable or do I need to use thick stainless steel ball? Is there some sort of charge or conductivity limit that I need to consider?

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You want to deposit charge inside the high voltage terminal.

You'll need some mechanical strength for that and because the charge is deposited near the middle you'll need an conducting path to the surface.

It wants to be very smooth and every radii as big as possible.

I think the 4 MV one I worked on had a dome of about 1/16" stainless polished to a mirror finish. After 34 years it had quite a few dings.

Here's a photo of the dome. The rings to the left go around the structure to control the potential gradient to the base. The top deck is supported by layers of glass and metal (square columns) and the beamline in contained in the round glass and metal structure. The long acrylic rods passed from the base to the deck to control variacs at the high voltage terminal. The terminal could either go to +4 MV or -4 MV.

Dome of VdG, 4 MV Top deck and support structure of 4 MV VdG

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  • $\begingroup$ Any defects on the surface cause a local build-up of charge. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Apr 25 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ Do you think that inflated aluminized mylar might work as a dome material? Btw amazing generator!! $\endgroup$ – user2820052 Apr 25 at 12:53

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