A DIY Tesla Coil
DC Powered with Plasma Output
The aim of this design was to get the highest voltage (or longest arcs) possible from a single self contained unit.
This coil operates from 12V or 24V SLA batteries. A pair of car ignition coils are used to provide around 20kV for charging the capacitor bank. The ignition coils are driven by a variable frequency square wave from a 555 timing chip and four large transistors (2N3055).
|Input Voltage||12 – 24V DC|
|Power Consumption||250W Max|
|Max Arc Length||25cm|
|Primary Transformer||2 x Car ignition coils in parallel – 20kV|
|Capacitor||MMC 20 kV|
|Spark Gap||5 x 6mm pipes, Variable|
|Special Features||Plasma/Flame discharge terminal Battery powered Fully portable Variable coupling Basic power Management|
A pipe from a hole in the top of the sphere and down the inside of the secondary coil is used to supply gas to form a type of plasma electrode.
Using Butane gas and air, a blue flame can be used as an interesting discharge terminal. The heated CO2emissions provide a low pressure channel to conduct the electricity more easily than air. This produces a large plasma column above the flame. At certain spark gap discharge rates the plasma column can be made to resemble a stable double helix formation. Small quantities of other gasses such as neon or helium can be mixed with the butane to produce slightly different colours and effects. The table below should help you find some of the components needed for this project.
|Ignition Coils||~20kV||Click Here|
|Capacitor Bank||20kV||Click Here|
|HV Diode||30kV||Click Here|
|Power Transistor||400V||Click Here|
|Neon / Helium||n/a||ST Gas|
|Control Circuit||n/a||Click Here|
Capacitor Bank – The capacitor used in this project was made by combining a large number of lower valued capacitors. By connecting smaller capacitors in series the overall voltage they will tolerate is increased. To obtain a higher storage capacity (capacitance) the capacitors can be connected in parallel. This type of capacitor bank is known as an MMC (Multi Mini Capacitors). The next version of this project will use specially designed large pulse discharge capacitors. These capacitors can be more efficient than an MMC, but they can be expensive and hard to find.
Primary Transformer – Ignition coils (Induction coils) obtained from a scrap yard are used for this design. The old ignition coils provide a very cheap way of generating a high voltage for charging the capacitor. The voltage increase in an ignition coil is not determined by the turns ratio like in normal transformers. The secondary voltage depends upon the rate of change of the current in the primary coil. Older ignition coils such as ones from a scrap yard may not work as well as new ones. Over time the insulating oil inside the casing becomes less effective and can lead to internal arcing. This can damage the transistors and the control circuit, rendering them useless
Control Circuit – The control circuit is based on a simple oscillator provided by an NE555 timer chip. The square wave pulses are sent to a set of four 2N3055 power transistors mounted on a large heat sink. These transistors can switch a good amount of power quite quickly, but they can be sensitive to voltage spikes caused by feedback in the circuit, or faulty ignition coils. The Ignition coil driver circuit shown below shows how the signal from the 555 chip is pre-amplified, so that the large transistor array can be driven effectively. Using 2N3055 transistors in this way is not ideal, but it is what we had available at the time for the project. Modern IGBT transistors are much more effective and less
prone to failure from voltage spikes.
The output from the ignition coils is rectified (converted to DC using diodes) so that it can charge the capacitor bank C1 shown below.
Coils – The primary coil is simply made from 2mm enameled copper wire, wound around a plastic stand. There are six turns in total, but the connection is made at about 4.5 turns when tuned. The secondary coil is wound from 0.4mm enameled copper wire around a plastic drainage pipe.
Safety – Attached to the capacitor is a short circuit switch that is activated by a long plastic handle. This is used to make sure the capacitor is fully discharged, and cannot recharge whilst making any manual adjustments. There is also a switch to isolate power from the ignition coils that is activated using a insulating pull cord.
Special Features – This project has several extra features compared to a common Tesla Coil. The topload sphere has a small hole to allow gas to be emitted. A 5mm plastic pipe runs down the inside of the secondary coil, and out of the plastic base.
This allows the gas to be piped in, without interfering with the normal operation of the Tesla Coil.
Future Developments – This project is currently being upgraded. The new design aims to achieve a higher power throughput. By using more ignition coils in parallel it should be possible to increase the size of the spark gap, or to fire it more rapidly. New ignition coils will used instead of the second hand ones for improved stability. The new design also incorporates voltage and power monitoring features. It also has a neat metal finish and multiple outputs so that it can be used as a multi purpose portable high voltage power supply