There are virtually no thunderstorms to speak of in SF Bay Area, so my son (5 yo) insisted on building a circuit that generates lightning on demand.

Well, as it turns out, you can abuse a tiny CCFL transformer quite a bit if you submerge it in silicone oil and remove air!

I'm driving the transformer (LTZ3PC0XB004) with two inexpensive MOSFETs (BUK7510) and a couple NOT gates (74HC04). The frequency is 82 kHz, input voltage is around 15 V.

There is lovely corona discharge when the leads are about 5 cm apart or more; a proper arc forms as soon as you get down to 4 cm. 

When I tried that in open air, these transformers died at around 2 kV - but when submerged, looks like they can deliver ~30 kV no sweat. Fun experiment for kids (assuming you are not afraid to die).
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