Simple High Voltage Generator Low Voltage DC In, up to 30 KV Out


[Document Version: 1.20] [Last Updated: 05/25/1998]

1. About the Author & Copyright

Simple High Voltage Generator Low Voltage DC In, up to 30 KV Out

Author: Samuel M. Goldwasser
Corrections/suggestions: | Email

Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
All Rights Reserved

Reproduction of this document in whole or in part is permitted if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. This notice is included in its entirety at the beginning.
  2. There is no charge except to cover the costs of copying.

2. Introduction

The basic circuit described in this document is capable of generating up to
30 kilovolts or more from a low voltage DC source using the flyback (LOPT)
transformer salvaged from a B/W or color TV or computer monitor.  Typical
output with a 12 VDC 2 A power supply or battery will be 12,000 V.  Maximum
output current at full voltage is typically around 1 to 2 mA.  Higher currents
are available but the output voltage will drop.  At 2 KV, more than 10 mA may
be possible depending on your particular flyback transformer input voltage
and current.

As you can see from the schematic below, it doesn't get much simpler than this!

   +Vcc     Q1   +----------------+ |:|
     o           |                 )|:|
     |       B |/ C                )|:|
     |  +------|    2N3055         )|:|
     |  |      |\ E           5 T  )|:| +------|>|----------o  +HV
     |  |        |                 )|:|(   HV Diode, usually
     |  |       -_-                )|:|(    built in.
     |  |                          )|:|(
     +--|-------------------------+ |:|(
     |  |   Q2  _-_                )|:|(
     |  |        |                 )|:|( Secondary (HV) winding,
     |  |    B |/ E           5 T  )|:|(  intact.
     |  |  ----|    2N3055         )|:|(
     |  |  |   |\ C                )|:|(
     |  |  |     |                 )|:|(
     |  |  |     +----------------+ |:|(
     |  |  |                        |:|(
     |  |  -----------------------+ |:| +------------------o  -HV
     |  |                     2 T  )|:|
     |  |               +---------+ |:|
     |  |               |     2 T  )|:| T1 - Flyback transformer from B/W or
     |  +-------------------------+ |:|      color TV or computer monitor.
     |                  |
     |            R1    |    R2
                  110        27   _|_
                  5 W        5 W   -

This design is derived from a circuit found in: "Build your own working
Fiberoptic, Infrared, and Laser Space-Age Projects", Robert E. Iannini,
TAB books, 1987, ISBN 0-8306-2724-3.

3. Construction

CAUTION: See the document: "Safety Guidelines for High Voltage and/or Line Powered Equipment" before firing up this circuit!

Read the following in its entirety!

1. Obtain flyback transformer with known good HV secondary winding. primary
   may be left intact if it is known to be in good condition - non shorted.
   A flyback removed due to failure may be used if it was the primary that
   failed and the primary turns can be removed without damaging the HV
   secondary or losing the secondary return connection!  Flybacks fail
   in both ways (primary and secondary).

2. Locate the return for the high voltage winding.  This may be a different
   color wire than the low voltage winding or may exit from the potted part
   of the flyback in a different place.  It is not possible to use an
   ohmmeter to locate the return for the high voltage winding if your
   flyback has a built-in HV rectifier or multiplier as the forward voltage
   drop of the rectifier diodes is much greater than the battery voltage
   used in your multimeter.  However, a winding connection that has
   infinite resistance to every other terminal is likely to be the HV
   return.  On flybacks with no HV rectifier or multiplier, the return
   is easily located by measuring resistance between the HV output and all
   other terminals.  The HV winding will have a resistance of 100s-1000s
   of ohms compared to single digit readings or less for all the other

3. Wind 10 turn center tapped drive winding and 4 turn centertapped feedback
   winding using #16 to 20 gauge insulated wire.  Make sure both halves of each
   coil are wound in same direction.  Connect centertap in each case at the
   winding - do not bring out a loop.  Insulate well with electrical tape.

4. Vcc should typically be in the range 12 to 24 volts at a couple of amps.
   Circuit should start oscillating at around a Vcc of 5 V or so.  If you do
   not get any HV out, interchange the connections to the transistor bases.
   Heat sinks are advised for the transistors.  Be aware of the capability of
   your flyback (B/W monitors up to 15 KV, color up to 30 KV).  You risk
   destroying the secondary windings and/or HV rectifier if you get carried
   away.  Running this on 24 volts will probably cause an internal arc-over
   in a small flyback, at which point you start over with more caution and a
   new flyback.

5. Actual output will depend on turns ratio of the flyback you have.

   * For a typical small B/W TV, monochrome computer monitor, or video display
     terminal, you should be able to get around 12,000 volts with 12 VDC input.

     I built one from a dead Mac-Plus flyback from which I removed the (dead)
     primary windings.

   * With a large color TV or color monitor flyback, 30,000 V or more will be
     possible using a 24 VDC power supply.

6. The frequency of operation will be in the KHz to 10s of KHz range depending
   on Vcc, load, and specific flyback characteristics.

7. You can experiment with the number of turns, resistor values, etc. to
   optimize operation and power output for you needs.

8. CAUTION: contact with output will be painful, though probably not
   particularly dangerous due to low (a few mA) current availability.

   HOWEVER, if you add a high voltage capacitor to store the charge,
   don't even think about going near the HV!

4. Inverter parts list (excluding low voltage power supply)

None of the component values are critical.  It is quite likely that everything
needed is already patiently waiting in your junkbox.  If not, except for the
flyback, most if not all of the parts should be available from Radio Shack.
See the section: "Low voltage power supply" for a simple design to use with
this inverter.

Some experimenting with different value resistors and even the number of turns
on each winding may improve performance for your particular flyback.

Q1, Q2 - 2N3055 or similar NPN power transistors (reverse polarity of Vcc if
         using PNP transistors.)  Maximum stress on transistors are about 2
         to 3 times VCC.  Heat sinks will be needed for continuous operation.

R1     - 110 ohms, 2 W resistor (5 W for Vcc of 24 V).  This provides base
         current to get circuit started.

R2     - 27 ohms, 5W resistor.  This provides return path for base feedback
         during operation.

T1     - Flyback transformer from/for B/W TV, video display terminal, color
         TV, computer monitor, etc., modified according to text above.

         Most modern flybacks include built-in HV rectifier diode(s) and/or
         voltage multiplier (tripler) so output without additional components
         will be high voltage positive or somewhat smoothed HV DC.

         Note: this kind of flyback transformer drives the CRT directly and
         uses its glass envelope as the main high voltage filter capacitor.
         (A foot square piece of 1/8 inch Plexiglas with Aluminum foil plates
         makes an filter capacitor.)

Wire   - a couple of feet of #16-#20 hookup wire, magnet wire, or any other
         insulated wire for home made primaries.  Use electrical tape to
         fix windings to core.  Wind feedback winding on top of drive winding.

5. Low voltage power supply

The power supply (12 to 24 V) doesn't need to be anything fancy.  Regulation
is not needed so a simple power transformer-bridge rectifier-filter capacitor
design will be fine.  The circuit described below will provide about 15 VDC at
up to 3 A.  Unless you are going for maximum output, this should be adequate.

During initial testing at least, a Variac on the input (or variable voltage
power supply) is highly desirable to avoid blowing anything should your wiring
or parts not be quite right and to gain a feel for the capabilities of your
circuit before it is too late!  In neither of these is available, use a 10 ohm
25 W power resistor or 100 W light bulb in series with the load (inverter) to
limit current to a safe value - one that won't fry too many things too quickly.

A typical circuit is shown below:

                  _         T1
  H o-----o/ o---- _------+                5 A diodes
       S1 Power  F1 Fuse   )||             or bridge
                  1 A      )|| +---------+----|>|-------+-------+-----o +Vcc
                           )||(         ~|        D1    |+      |
                           )||(          +----|<|----+  |     +_|_ C1
 115 VAC                   )||( 12 VAC            D2 |  |      ___ 20,000 uF
                           )||(          +----|>|----|--+     - |  25 V
                           )||(          |        D3 |          |
                           )|| +---------+----|<|----+----------+--+--o Gnd
                           )||          ~         D4     -        _|_
  N o---------------------+                                        -

6. Low voltage power supply parts list

All of these are readily available.

T1     - 12 V, 3 A power transformer.
S1     - SPST toggle switch.
F1     - Fuse, 1 A.
D1-4   - Silicon rectifier diodes, 5 A minimum.  Or, 5 A bridge rectifier.
C1     - Electrolytic filter capacitor, 20,000 uF or more, 25 V minimum.

7. Typical flyback schematic

This diagram shows a typical flyback that might be found in a direct
view color television or computer monitor.  Resistances are included for
illustrative purposes only and may be quite different on your flyback!

The high voltage section on the right may actually be constructed as a
voltage multiplier rather than a single winding with multiple HV diodes.
The rectifiers or multiplier, and/or focus/screen divider may be external
to the flyback transformer in some models.

Flyback transformers used in black-and-white TVs and monochrome computer
monitors do not have a focus and screen divider network.

The ferrite core of a flyback transformer is constructed with a precision
gap usually formed by some plastic spacers or pieces of tape.  Don't lose
them if you need to disassemble the core.  The ferrite core is also
relatively fragile, so take care.

The focus and screen divider network uses potentiometers and resistors
(not shown) with values in the 10s to 100s of M ohms so they may not
register at all on your multimeter.  The high voltage rectifiers (CR1
to CR3 on this diagram) are composed of many silicon diodes in series
and will read open on a typical VOM or DMM.

Note that there is no standardization to the color code.  However, the fat
wire to the CRT is most often red but could also be black.  Of course, you
cannot miss it with the suction cup-like insulator at the CRT anode end.

                                     |:| +--|>|-----------o  HV to CRT
              _                   1  |:|(   CR1             (25 to 30 KV,
             |   B+  o-------------+ |:|(                    suction cup on
    Drive    |                      )|:|(                    fat red wire)
    winding <                       )|:| +-------+
             |             1.32     )|:|         |
             |                    2 )|:| +--|>|--+
             |_  HOT o-------------+ |:|(   CR2
              _                   3  |:|( 
             |   50  o-------------+ |:|(
             |                      )|:| +-------+
             |              .11   4 )|:|         |
             |   35  o-------------+ |:| +--|>|--+
  Various    |                      )|:|(   CR3  |
  auxiliary <               .28     )|:|(        /
  windings   |                    5 )|:|(        \<-------o  Focus 
             |   16  o-------------+ |:|(        /          (3 to 10 KV,
             |                      )|:|(        \           orange wire)
             |              .12   6 )|:|(        |
             |_   0  o----------+--+ |:|(  9     |
              _                 | 7  |:| +--+    /
             |   H1  o----------)--+ |:|    |    \<-------o  Screen
 CRT Heater <               .08 | 8 )|:|    |    /          (200 to 800 V,
             |_  H2  o----------+--+ |:|    |    \           brown wire)
                                |    |:|    |    |      
                                |    |:|    +----|--------o  To CRT DAG
                                |                |            ground

Written by Samuel M. Goldwasser. | [mailto]. The most recent version is available on the WWW server [Copyright] [Disclaimer]