Sunteți pe pagina 1din 64

ZVS drivers are fairly cheap to build, the only pricey part may be the

MOSFET's. I got most of my parts from Farnell and some of it I had lying

• Flyback transformer
Newer flybacks are recommended as they are very robust. You can use
an older flyback for higher current output, however, they are more likely
to burn out due to excessive voltage.

• 2x 470Ω 2W resistors
The color code is yellow/purple/brown

• 2x 10KΩ 1/4W resistors

The color code is orange/brown/black

• 2x 12v 1/4W zener diodes

• 2x 400+ volts fast diodes

I used UF4007 diodes.
• 1x inductor
The value is not critical but it should be 47uH to 200uH rated at 10A or
more. You can find an inductor from a computer PSU or you can simply
make your own, just wrap 20 turns of 16 gauge of enameled wire around
a ferrite toroid.

• 1x 0.68uF 250v (or higher) capacitor

This capacitor must be bipolar and must be good quality, such as MKP ot
MMC types. NEVER use an electrolytic capacitor, they will blow up. You
can test various types of capacitors to see which one suits your ZVS
driver well.

• 2x IRFP250 MOSFET's
They are a bit pricey, however, you can use other MOSFET's that has Vds
4x more than the power supply and has the Rds(on) lower than 150mΩ.
Unfortunately those MOSFET's are a bit over my budget so I used the
IRFP254 MOSFET's instead, not the best, but it is cheaper and it and it
should give me good arc results. I also tried using the popular IRF540
MOSFET, however, it gave me very poor results.

• 2x small heatsink
They won't be necessary if you are going to run your ZVS driver lower
than 12v.

• Large variable voltage power supply

Now this can cost quite a big chunk of change, you can a computer power
supply unit for 12v power source. If you want a higher voltage power
supply, then you might want to consider modifying a microwave oven
transformer, but this is another project. As I don't have a large power
supply so I used six 6v sealed lead acid batteries all in series to gain 36v
to power my ZVS driver.
Then finaly the other bits and pieces you may need such as solder, thick
wires, etc.
The 5 turns of wire as the primary is not critical, you can add or remove
windings for different performance.The voltage input to the driver may
affect the number of turns required as well.

The "47-200 µH" inductor can be customized to the desired output of the
flyback transformer. In general, if you want a higher voltage, the inductor
should have an higher value, if you want more current, the inductor
should have an lower value. Also, an inductor is a 'must' for the ZVS
driver, without it, your ZVS driver may work poorly or not work at all.

Changing the value of the capacitor can also affect the performance
depending on the flyback transformer, again, make sure you use good
quality capacitor.
Not much to say here, just get your toolbox, read the schematics and
build it! :-)

Make sure you use thick wire as it will be handling currents up to 10


When winding the flyback transformer, make sure both wire go the same

If you are going to attach both of your MOSFET's on one heatsink, Use
mica insulators! Or other types of insulators to isolate the MOSFET's tabs
from each other, otherwise your ZVS driver won't work.
When you first power on your ZVS driver, start with 12v input to make
sure everything thing is working. Then you can increase the input
voltage up to 36v. You can power the ZVS driver above 36v, but then you
risk blowing up your driver, check step 7 for instructions for modifying
your ZVS driver to handle higher input voltages.

You may hear an very high pitched squeal from your ZVS driver, don't
worry, that is normal.

What ever you use as your negative terminal, it will get hot, very hot! The
arc will melt any thin wire you use into little metal balls and steal will
just fly everywhere, which is cool (and dangerous)! If anyone has a good
explnation why the negative terminal get so hot and the positive terminal
remains fairly cool, I'd like to know.. :-)

Also, in the video, just after the arc burnt a hole into a lightbulb, they was
a stream of plasma 'shooting' out of the bulb, like a flame thrower. This is
because when the arc got inside the bulb, the gas inside heats up, causing
it to expand and escaping through the hole thus creating a "plasma
Basic ZVS Driver Circuit

Schematic 1. Basic ZVS Driver

Schematic 2. ZVS Driver with CT Primary

Page 2

This note describes the operation of a "ZVS" (Zero Voltage Switching) driver used in a number
of YouTu be demonstrations for high voltage flyback and induction heating drivers. This note is
the result of research I did on this circuit when investigating induction heating.
This circuit was introduced by Vladimiro Mozilli around 2009 and is often called the "Mazilli"
driver. Although there are excellent tutorials and demonstrations on this driver on YouTube, the
purpose of this note is to explain the basic operation of the ZVS circuit and to offer
recommendations for its construction, operation and use.

The circuit initially was used as a high voltage driver for CRT flyback coils. Later, the same
circuit was employed to drive induction heating coils.

This video shows tests on a 1000 Watt induction heater board.

This EBay listing shows a typical 1000 Watt induction heater.

Here is an interesting site that discusses the driver when used as a flyback driver. This same site
also discusses the driver when used for a ZVS induction heater.

Page 3



 Introduction

 Operation

o Overview

o FETs

o Zeners

o Coupling Diodes

o Chokes

o Primary Coil

o Resonating Capacitance

 Waveforms

 Improved Circuit

 Construction
 Addendum

 Revision Summary

Page 4


 Schematic 1. Basic ZVS Driver

 Schematic 2. ZVS Driver with Center Tapped Primary

 Schematic 3. Improved ZVS Driver

 Photo 1. Voltage Across Primary

 Photo 2. Heatsink Mounting

 Photo 3. Waveform for a Single Turn Secondary

 Photo 4. Waveform for a Single Turn Secondary, No Arc Discharge

Page 5


The ZVS Driver circuit is a Royer-type push-pull oscillator with a resonated primary that is
implemented with FETs. This type of oscillator can be used to drive the ferrite core of a flyback
transformer to generate high voltage. It can also drive a high-current air-core "work" coil for an
induction heater.

The high voltage driver was originally touted as an improved way of driving flyback cores. Until
the introduction of Mazilli's circuit, flybacks were typically driven with a single transistor and a
feedback winding or with a push-pull transistor configuration (e.g., using two 2N3055

The operation of the circuit is descibed below, including its drawbacks and improvements. The
operation also discusses selection of components, an area that is typically not well-covered at
most sites.

It appears that component selection is not well understood because of the unique characteristics
of a resonant Royer-type oscillator. The component stresses are considerable with this type of
circuit because of the resonant operation of the primary which generates large voltages and
currents that can stress poorly-selected components.

Page 6


This section describes the basic operation of the ZVS Driver, including the design and purpose
and selection of components. The descriptions below refer to Schematic 1 and Schematic 2.


The ignoring the power supply chokes and resonating capacitor(s), the ZVS circuit is simply a
push-pull FET-based oscillator where the drain of each FET is cross-coupled to the gate of the
opposite (out of phase) FET.

The operation of this kind of driver for the primary of a transformer is very straightforward and
need not be discussed here.

The circuit is fed from the power supply through a center-tapped primary coil and a single choke
or from two separate chokes connected to the FET drains (as shown in Schematic 1).

With the two (47uH-200 uH) choke coils and the resonating capacitance across the primary, the
circuit operates as a "Royer" type inverter where the primary is resonated with the capacitance
and where the chokes keep the power supply from reducing the resonant action of the primary.
These chokes also keep the primary oscillations from feeding back to the power supply. The role
of these chokes and the resonating capacitor are discussed more fully below.

Zener diodes are connected across the FET gates so that the maximum gate to drain voltage is
not exceeded. Use of a zener voltage higher than the minimum gate to source turn-on voltage
ensures that the FETs are conducting at a high level.

Page 7

The "fast diodes" connecting the drains to the opposite side FET's gate are typically Schottky
diodes or fast recovery diods (FREDs). These diodes provide a fast turn off of the FET gates
when they are driven toward ground as the opposite-phase FET saturates. Although the forward-
biased diode of zener can be used, it is significantly slower than the Schottky diode.

Each FET is turned off as the opposite-phase FET turns on and this continues until the primary
voltage reverses phase. This phase reversal happens when the primary voltage crosses zero so
that switching occurs when there is zero voltage across the FET. Hence, "Zero Voltage
Switching" or ZVS.

In some cases, the FETs are run without zeners to ground and the gate voltage is limited by a
voltage regulator such as a 7812. With this configuration, the resistors from the power supply to
the gate can be lower (e.g., 270 Ohms), thus reducing turn on time. Note that the gate bias
voltage must be lower than the drain supply voltage to ensure that the coupling diodes are
reverse biased when the drain is high. Also note that the dissipation of the gate bias resistors
should be carefully watched as their resistances are reduced.

Page 8


Because of the resonant voltage rise in the primary, the FET drains must withstand more than 2
times the power supply voltage. Most designs recommend a voltage rating of 3 to 4 times the
supply voltage.

For a supply voltage of 24 Volt, the FETs should be rated conservatively at 200 Volts or higher.

Because of the resonant current rise in the primary, the FETs must be able to handle currents
about 4 times the nominal power supply current. This requirement is normally satisfied by
selecting FETs that have high continuous drain currents and Rds(on) resistances of less than a
tenth of an Ohm.

A typical FET recommended for several designs is an IRFP260N rated at a voltage of 200 Volts
and a drain current of 50 Amps. Drain "on" resistance is 0.04 Ohms and power dissipation is 300
Watts. The cost at Mouser is under $3.00 in small quantity. Here is the IRFP260N datasheet

Another consideration for the FETs is the gate to source capacitance (gate charge), which should
be minimized to improve FET turn-on and minimize FET dissipation. With reasonably fast
switching, dissipation requirements can normally be satisfied with relatively small heat sinks
(e.g., because of fast switching and ZVS operation). A small heat sink or on-board copper fill can
generally provide the needed dissipation of a Watt or so.

Page 9


As noted earlier, the zener diodes limit the FET gate to source voltage to the maximum specified
in the spec sheet. A 15 Volt zener, rated at at least one Watt, is commonly used in most ZVS
circuits. The zener limiting resistors not only limit the maximum dissipation of the zeners but
also drive the gate to source capacitance of the FETs. A separate regulated gate supply voltage,
should be set less than the zener voltage and the nominal FET drain voltage. Or, the zener can be
eliminated or substituted with a reverse-biased diode. If the gate supply voltage is at the same
voltage as the supply voltage, the zener dissipation should be checked for the operating voltage.

For fast operation, the zener current limiting resistors should be as small as possible while not
challenging any power ratings.

The resistors are typically tied to the power supply which can cause both zener and limiting
resistor dissipation problems when increasing the supply voltage. As previously noted, a better
design is to use a separate gate power supply fed off the main power supply, as shown in
Schematic 2.

Because the driver I built operates at 24 VDC, the gate bias voltage was established by regulating
the 24 Volt supply down to 15 Volts with a small LM317 regulator board. The board's trimpot
was adjusted for an output of 15 Volts. Using this approach, the bias supply can be regulated with
only the requirement that the power supply voltage is always at least a few Volts larger than the
desired output voltage (15 Volts). See Schematic 2 for the regulator connections.

Page 10

Coupling Diodes

The cross-coupling diodes should be Schottky types with a voltage rating consistent with the
power supply voltage and resonant rise considerations. Diodes rated at more than 200 Volts are
commonly-available and can be "pulls" from old switching power supplies.

Some designs use the popular 1N5819 Shottky diode but its rating is only 40 Volts (use
something else). One diode I found on a quick part search is a SCS306APC9. It is available from
both Digikey and Mouser for under $3 (qty 10). It is rated at 650 Volts and 6 Amperes (available
in a TO220 package).

Another fast diode in a TO220 package would be a FFPF30UA60S rated at 600 Volts and 30
Amperes. It is available from Mouser for about one dollar (qty 10).

Page 11


The sample circuit diagram shows two chokes connected between the power supply and each leg
of the primary. Some circuits use center-tapped primary and a single choke between the center
tap and the power supply. In some designs a single ferrite core with two windings is used in a
common-mode filter configuration. This saves a core but still allows a separate feed to each FET
drain and eliminates the center-tapped.

There seems to be some confusion about the chokes and their ratings. The impedance of the
choke must be somewhat higher than the impedance of the primary but must also be able to
handle the current drawn from the power supply and power losses in the core.

Typically, the choke is wound on a powdered iron (Material 26). With this material's relatively
low permeability (75), the core will not saturate at the maximum power supply current.
Saturation is generally not a concern unless a toroid with an extremely high permeability is used
(e.g., values greater than 200). A typical choke value for a ZVS driver operating near 100 kHz is
around 100 microhenries.

The wire used in the choke must be able to handle the maximum current demanded of the power
supply without significant core losses.

Some reported bad results are probably due to poor construction of these chokes. It is probably
not a good practice to use randomly-selected toroids removed from old switchers without first
testing their performance, especially with rated load current in the winding. It is probably best to
separately test the chokes before deploying them or to incorporate them in a final design and
board layout.

Page 12

Chokes (Cont.)

Chokes salvaged from junk switching supplies can be a good source of pre-wound chokes or
bare cores, provided that they are tested at their frequency of use. Using "yellow core" powdered
iron toroids may require over 30 turns to get the appropriate inductance (around 100 uH for
circuit shown in Schematic 2).

Using a relatively high number of turns increases the current rating of the choke (assuming the
"NI" factor in Faraday's law. The DC resistance of the wire should be low enough for the desired
average drain current without overheating. The FET drain's resistance should also be much
smaller than the DC resistance of the choke wire (say 130 milliohms). The IRP260 FETs shown
in Schematic 2 have a drain resistance of 40 milliohms at a drain curent of 28 Amperes.

In one home-brew ZVS design, the chokes each consisted of 14 turns of hookup wire wound on a
ferrite transformer removed from a switching power supply. The inductance was approximately
130 uH.

I removed and measured the single center-tap choke for the commercial flyback driver. The core
was yellow with 33 turns of #18 enameled wire and an inductance of 103 uH.
A yellow/white painted toroid core of about the same size (25 mm outside diameter) was
removed from an old switching power supply and was tested with the same number of turns of
#18: its inductance value closely matched that of the commercial core. Substituting the home-
brew choke for the commercial choke did not appear to change the operation of the flyback

From an Amidon manual, the powdered iron core material is probably type 26 with a
permeability of around 75. This material is specifically designed for low-Q choke or line filter
applications. According to Amidon's color coding, the core is painted yellow and white, just like
the toroid salvaged from the power supply.

Page 13

Chokes (Cont.)

The impedance of the 103 microhenry commercial choke at the operational frequency of 77 kHz
is 49.8 Ohms. The operational frequency was measured with the flyback secondary producing a
continuous arc, as shown in Photo 2" Note that photos of waveforms with a frequency above 70
kHz indicate that the output is drawing a continuous arc.

Without an arc (transformer secondary left open), the operational frequency is approximately
38.3 kHZ. At this lower frequency, the 103 uH reactance is approximately 11.1 Ohms.

The inductance of the primary of the ZVS driver is 22.8 uH with a reactance of 12.9 Ohms at 77
kHz. Thus, the ratio of the choke impedance to the primary impedance (with a sustained arc) is
approximately 4 to 1 (49.8/12.9).

The above indicates that, ideally, type 26 material can be used as a ZVS driver at a power level
of approximately 200 Watts. If a surplus core cannot be salvaged from an old power supply, the
choke toroid can be ordered from Amidon.

Rewinding the "junk" 25 mm yellow/white toroid using 15 bifilar turns of #18 enameled wire
and connecting the windings in a series-aiding configuration yields an inductance of 91.8
microhenries, thus validating the previous winding results. This bifilar winding technique
reduces the trauma of winding a large number of turns on a toroid core.

Page 14

Primary Coil
For an induction heater, the primary coil is typically a half-dozen or so turns of copper tubing.
The primary coil corresponds to the primary of TR1 in Schematic 1. In some cases, water is run
through the copper tubing with a small pump and plastic tubing to cool the coil.

For a high voltage driver, the coil is typically 8 turns of heavy insulated wire (perhaps center-
tapped) wound around the core of a flyback transformer.

The easiest case to discuss is the induction heater because the primary is an air core coil that will
not saturate. This coil can also be a flat spiral-wound coil using copper tubing or Litz wire. This
configuration is typically used with a flat metal plate held above the coil to heat water. The
secondary can also use a washer directly placed in the water to be heated. The entire assembly,
including the water to be heated and the metal washer, can be placed directly on the "work" coil.

For an induction heating coil, the inductance can be measured and the resonating capacitance
selected, depending on the desired operating frequency. The operating frequency is often close to
100 kHz for commercial "1000 Watt" boards available for around $50 from EBay. Higher
frequencies are achievable with low gate charge FETs and a properly-resonated primary coil.

When driving a ferrite core, it is important to make sure that the core does not saturate with the
resonating current that is induced into the primary. As noted earlier, the resonating current can be
many times the current drawn from the power supply.

Page 15

Primary Coil (Cont.)

It is best to start with a known core type and calculate the saturation current from the number of
turns and the power supply current (the NI factor in Faraday's Law). For ferrite cores with high
permeability, the core can saturate at rather small power levels. In most cases, a different type of
core material can be selected or a number of cores can be stacked together to get the desired
power level. See the results given above for the choke coil.

A number of designs handle the saturation problem by inserting a small air-gap in the core. This
is especially popular for generating high voltage with a flyback core when operated at high
power and a rewound high voltage secondary. IN most cases, using an iron-core toroid with a
lowe permeability (e.g., 75) will eliminate core saturation fears.

Page 16

Resonating Capacitance
The resonating capacitance is roughly determined by using the primary inductance and target
operating frequency plugged into the LC resonance formula.

The primary consideration for the resonating capacitance is that it be a high-quality capacitance
capable of handling large AC currents. Normally, this means selecting a "MKS" type metallized
polypropylene capacitor with a voltage rating at least as high as 4 times the power supply
voltage.Interconnection traces on a circuit board should be as wide and as short as possible.

The commercial flyback driver I ordered from eBay uses two 0.33 uF capacitors. Each capacitor
is connected from a FET drain to ground. With a primary inductance of 22 uH resonating with
0.167 uF, the resulting frequency is approximately 80 kHz, close to the 77 kHz observed
operational frequency. The actual frequency is likely lower because of factors such as drain to
source capacitance.

The resonating capacitors are normally rated at 630 VAC or 1200 Volts DC. The voltage
measured across the capacitors when the flyback is operating and producing a spark is
approximately 50 Volts but a safe drain to source rating for the FETs would be 200 Volts.

Because of the very high circulating current through the resonating capacitance(s), capacitor
connections must be wired in close proximity to the primary coil and connected via low
inductance circuit board traces or, in a pinch, braid. In most cases, several capacitors are used in
a series/parallel combination. Wiring multiplp capacitors in parallel reduces the current carried
by each capacitor. Series/parallel capacitor combinations also allow for more precise adjustment
of the primary's resonating capacitance.

To test the selection and wiring of the resonating capacitor(s), the temperature of the capacitors
can be checked after the circuit starts up and is operating normally. If the capacitors are getting
hot, different capacitors and/or wiring should be used.

Page 17

Good high-capacitance MKS capacitors can be pricey if purchased new (e.g., $2 for a 0.47
microfarad/650 Volt unit). Capacitors with lower ratings can be purchased less expensively. For
example a 0.01 uF at 250 Volt capacitor can be purchased from Digikey for around $1.50.
Suitable capacitors can also be removed from old switching power supplies.


This section describes waveforms captured during the flyback driver's operation. Unless
otherwise noted, the waveforms were measure across a 1 to 5 voltage divider consisting of a
string of 1M resistors with the scope input derived from the last resistor.

Photo 1 shows the waveform across the primary winding (divided by 5) when the spark gap is
sustaining an arc.

Photo 1. Waveform Across Primary, with Active Arc

Photo 3 shows the waveform across a single turn of wire wound on flyback's core (with active

Photo 3. Waveform for a Single Turn Secondary

Photo 4 shows the waveform across a single turn of wire wound on flyback's core, with no arc

Photo 4. Waveform for a Single Turn Secondary, No Arc Discharge

Page 18

Improved Circuit

The biggest problem with the basic ZVS driver is that it can "lock up" if the supply voltage
is not applied fast enough to kick it into operation. Several videos show this lock up and the
high supply currents that result. The way to check for lockup is to monitor the primary for
oscillation or to observe the power supply for large currents at startup. Another way to monitor
this is to install an LED indicator from each FET drain to ground. IF both LEDs are lit, then the
unit is operating properly. If only one LED is lit, the circuit has locked up.
Another way to monitor lockup is to wire an LED and series limiting resistor from each FET
drain to ground. If both LEDs light, the ciruit is operating normally;if only one LED lights, the
circuit has locked up.

The recommended cure for lockup is to apply the driver voltage quickly, perhaps using a relay. It
is common to see the power supply built with a microwave oven transformer that has had its
secondary rewound for low voltage and high current. In this "brute force" case is is also common
to see the power applied to the driver through a startup relay.

Schematic 3 shows a circuit that is said to prevent lockup and also corrects some other problems
with the basic ZVS circuit.

Schematic 3. Improved ZVS Driver

The circuit in Schematic3 was downloaded from the medafire site.

The primary feature of the improved circuit is the use of a set-reset flip-flop to drive the FETs.
Thus, each FET is assured of being driven by a phase that is opposite of the the other FET.
The improved circuit also drives the gates with a FET driver, ensuring that the gate charge is
driven with a low-impedance source.

The RS flip flop gates are also driven from the two phases with voltage-protected inputs (i.e.,
using protection diodes and 10K resistors on the gate inputs).

Page 19

Another input of each gate is driven with an opto-isolator to allow the circuit to be turned on and
off conveniently.

I have not run across a board that implements the improved circuit. Also, I have not tried this
circuit or found any videos showing it in operation.

Page 20


Photo 2 shows the heat sink assembly for the two FETs. The heat sink is held tightly to the backs
of the two FETs with some nylon hardware. The FETs are isolated from the heat sink with heat-
conductive pads. Thermal transfer is enhanced with heat sink compound on the backs of the
FETs and on the surface of the heat sink. A small 12 VDC fan is mounted directly to the heat sink
to provide forced air flow.
Photo 1. Heatsink Mounting


In doing further browsing for flyback drivers, I found that it is possible to drive a flyback with an
electronic ballast for a fluorescent lamp. Ludic Science provides a good example of how to do
this: Electronic Ballast Flyback Driver.

Ludic Science also describes how to connect two flyback coils in series: Cascading Two Flyback

On eBay, it is now possible to purchase a ZVS driver and a flyback transformer for around $20. I
recommend purchasing one of these completed, working units. Even if you are designing your
own custom circuit, it is worth observing the layout of a typical ZVS circuit. Here is a typical
<="" a=""> ZVS & Flyback Driver on Ebay.
<="" a="">

Page 21

Revision Summary
Revision Date Description

10 07Feb18 revised photos, scaled to 640x480, add page numbers, exported photos as 600x480 jpg

9 05Feb18 major cleanup of schematics, photos and text

8 01Feb18 updated text according to further measurements and tests on a commercial ZVS flyback mo

7 23Jan18 minor editing, removed bogus test link for mp4 video recording.

6 09Dec16 added electronic ballast addendum

5 21Nov16 corrected choke current requirements, misc. editing

4 20Nov16 first edit

3 17Nov16 initial production release

2 12Nov16 rough formatting, schematics

1 11Nov16 Initial version

email for support

Copyright © 2016, Bob Nash.

PowerLabs Flyback Driver

Table of contents:

Introduction: How this came into being, what it is for.

Flybacks: What they are, where to get one, what to do with them.

Preparing the flyback: How to wind a new primary.

Transistors: What you need to know about these solid state switches.

The Circuit (Continued): Parts list, how to put it all together and what you can
change to make it work for you.

Testing and Results: So it's ready... Now what? Includes pictures and videos of
the flyback outputting arcs at maximum power and running an ion engine and a
cascade. Also includes a short chapter on troubleshooting.

Caution!: This is not a toy, and shouldn't be treated as such.

Going further: Experiments and devices that can be derived from this.

This is by far the best project for someone who is already familiar with High
Voltage, but wants to take their experiments to the next level: It requires very
little previous experience and skills with soldering and identifying components,
and there are virtually no adjustments to be made. The danger is minimal, as fly
back transformers are intrinsically low power devices, not capable of outputting
lethal currents (due to the hair-thin secondary windings), and yet it will give a
careless experimenter a nasty RF burn if he accidentally touches the HV wire
(nothing beats learning from your mistakes). If you have never experimented
with HV before though, I recommend you start off with an electrostatic project.
This circuit is not a toy!

It is also by far the simplest source of High voltage at high frequency. The
original version of this circuit called for two transistors, and was (as far as I
know) derived from a circuit found in: "Build your own working Fiber optic,
Infrared, and Laser Space-Age Projects", by Robert E. Iannini, TAB books,
1987, ISBN 0-8306-2724-3. Than Burak modified it to work with a single
transistor, which made it EVEN simpler, easier, and cheaper to build... The single
transistor version does have it's drawbacks though (discussed in Going Further),
as the transistor tends to overheat and die from internal heating very quickly if
you are running higher powers... Still, the circuit works and is great for many
things, such as drawings arcs, Jacob's ladders, charging capacitors, running a
HV cascade (not recommended for beginners!), powering plasma globes, and
even powering a small Tesla Coil!

Below you can see the schematic of the circuit: It doesn't get much easier than
Single Transistor Flyback Driver Schematic. The principle of operation is as
simple as the circuit itself: When power is applied, the transistor will conduct the
current allowed through resistors R1 and R2 into the flyback primary, causing it
to induce a current on the secondary, and, at the same time, on the feedback
winding. This feedback current will trigger the transistor to stop conducting, and
as the magnetic field in the ferrite core collapses, a large HV spike will appear on
the secondary windings (basic inductor action). But now there is no feedback
current to keep the transistor off, so it will once again conduct, and the cycle will
repeat, at a natural frequency that puts the transformer in resonance, resulting
in enormous voltage gain. One of the advantages of having a feedback winding is
that the circuit becomes dynamic: The frequency of operation is automatically
adjusted to resonance, depending on many factors. It is interesting, because you
can actually hear the frequency change as you draw an arc (high loads drop the
frequency to a high pitched 20Khz whine which than becomes ultrasonic as the
arc grows).


The heart of the circuit is a ferrite-cored flyback transformer. There are several
different types of flybacks, and any device using a cathode ray tube will contain
one (this includes oscilloscopes, televisions, monitors, and others). Most computer
monitors and newer televisions use flybacks which have the high voltage rectifier
built in. Although a HV rectifier is useful if you want to charge up capacitors or
experiment with ion streams, having the rectifier built in is not desired for most
high voltage experiments, as it will make the output half wave, and in that way
make the output voltage 55% lower than it would be without it. The peak power
remains the same, and adding a filter capacitor can correct that problem, but it
also requires a resistor to limit the current drawn from the cap during arcing,
and it is a pure DC supply, useless for plasma globes and other experiments
requiring AC. The CRT on TVs and monitors is also a high voltage capacitor,
and you could use it as such in an experimental HV DC power supply (covering
the glass with aluminium foil greatly increases the capacitance), but a flat plate
plastic cap is much smaller, lighter, and it won't implode if you drop it... Also
note that the even newer flybacks out in the market today have the voltage
divider and focus control built in. Some don't even have the core visible. These
are useless for this circuit.
So, overall, flybacks with built in rectifiers are still usable, but you should look
for one that has either a removable rectifier (sometimes the rectifier is inside a
tube that sticks out from the flyback, other times it is encapsulated in epoxy next
to it. Either way, removing it is a good idea if you're able to). The best flybacks
come from old TV's or monitors, specially the larger ones, and have a disk
shaped secondary. Black and white TV flybacks tend to have a higher internal
capacitance and higher step-up ratio, whilst monitor flybacks are pretty much
useless, as far as the modern ones are concerned. If your flyback was used in
association with a cascade, you can expect to obtain no more than perhaps 12kV
from it (with 12V input). However, if it was free-standing, over 30kV may be
obtainable (with higher input voltages). Nominal output current is 1-2mA, and
arcing current can be as high as 10mA and above (mine can melt a steel sewing

Here is a picture of my flyback:

My flyback in it's original condition. As you can see, it has a rather disk-shaped
secondary: This is very important as it usually indicates a large number of
secondary turns, and a proportionally high output voltage... The primary coil is
wound on a plastic form that sits opposite to the secondary. The rectangular
piece of aluminium holds the flyback in place and also serves as a heat sink (as it
contains "thermal compound" between it and the ferrite core). The secondary is
nearly 10cm (4") in diameter, and 5cm (2") tall, and the core has 1.5cm cross
section, and is a square some 10cm on each side. This is by far the best type of
flyback to use in high performance circuits. My particular model is a "TDK
H1322Q". It has never been used before (I bought the last two an appliance
repair shop held as replacement parts. It only cost me 5dollars!), but is a real
antique, and VERY rare to find... If you can get your hands in such a beauty, I'm
highly interested. Do not hesitate to e-mail me! The person who sold it to me said
it was used in those old black and white valve TVs from the 70's, supposedly a
"Phillips" or "Philco" model... I'm not 100% sure, but the last valve TV I took
apart had a huge screen, and a very small flyback, so a large old TV is no
guarantee of a large flyback. Also note that if you remove your flyback from an
old TV it may well have it's secondary winding burned out... Flybacks are built
tough, but they are high voltage parts, and as such they tend to have a limited
useful life. If it is the primary that is burned out, than it may simply be removed
as you will wind a new one either way.


Flyback with its primary removed. First remove the original primary windings
(remember that in a good flyback these should be separate from the secondary.
However, if they are inside the secondary, it might be a good idea to leave them in
place), either by cutting off the insulation and unwrapping the wire, or by
opening the core and pulling them off. Then clean the area where they used to be.
Remember that ferrite ceramic is partially conductive, so it is a good idea to
insulate the primary from the core with either a plastic coil form, or some turns
of good quality insulation tape. (I have been shocked to the point of burning a
black spot in my finger merely by touching my flyback case before, so I can tell
you from experience that it DOES float at HV) Although the secondary is
naturally insulated from the core, capacitive coupling induces quite a voltage on

Other things to watch out for are the fact that ferrite is very brittle and won't
take any bumps without cracking or breaking (and ruining the flyback). Also, the
core should have two plastic spacers to form a gap (to prevent the transformer
core from saturating at high powers), and these should be returned to place when
you close the core.
Flyback With 5-turn primary in place.

Now wind wind 5 turns of enameled 12 - 18AWG wire (1 - 1.6mm diameter) on

the core. Hold it in place with a drop or two of glue, and than wrap a few turns of
insulation tape over it to prevent any mishaps (such as the secondary HV wire
getting to close to it and injecting thousands of volts into the transistor or the
power supply).
Flyback with primary and feedback wound.

Than, to make the feedback winding use 22AWG wire (0.64mm diameter) and
wind 2-4 turns (depending on your transistor's internal resistance, this needs a
bit of tweaking for maximum efficiency to be reached, but 2, 3, and 4 turns will
all work and provide stable HV output) then secure it and once again insulate it
with tape.

NOTE: I noticed that on my flyback, when running extremely high output

voltages (in the order of 45kV) corona was forming around the feedback wire.
Re-winding it with high voltage insulated (40kVDC) 22AWG wire solved the
problem. Something to keep in mind with the larger flybacks..


Transistors... To your right you can see the schematic symbol of an NPN
transistor, and how the pin arrangement translates into real life on a diagram of
the transistor. You can also see a picture of the transistor I used mounted on a
large heat sink (black). Note how I used plastic spacers to insulate the transistor
from the screws that hold it on place, and how there is a mica isolator between
the transistor and the heat sink: This is important, as the transistor case may
float at high voltage (yup, I've been shocked of that too:) It didn't hurt though,
but it just shows you how much feedback is produced by the circuit... Should you
accidentally touch the heat sink while you are holding, say, a plasma globe, the
transistor would be ruined immediately, unless it was insulated.

Finally, you can see a picture of what a transistor looks like with its top removed
(interesting note: the top is resistively welded in place, and is very hard to
remove: After many failed attempts with a knife, a screwdriver, and a hammer, I
decided the best course of action would be to shoot the case off with a CO2 gas
pistol:) It worked the first time!!! Ahhh... Nothing like using the "right tool for
the job"... Hehehehe...:)

What is important to note on the picture of the transistor with its top removed is
that the silicone square (the transistor per se, here covered with some sort of
white rubbery glue) is very small... This means that it does not take a lot of power
to make it become very hot, very quick, and despite all the thermal mass of the
case and heat sink, if you run far too much power through it, the heat just won't
be able to dissipate quickly enough and the component will be ruined. Also
remember to place thermal compound between the case, the mica isolator, and
the heat sink, to ensure maximum heat transfer.

The 2N3055 is somewhat under-rated for the high (200W+) powers my flyback
can handle. Appropriate substitutions include the MJ2955 or (what I am using
now, the largest I could find anywhere), the MJ15003, which is rated for 20A at
140V. The heat sink pictured was substituted for one 3 times as large for the high
power work.


Here is a diagram of what the component hookup should look like:

Diagram of completed circuit.

The value 240 Ohms 1W for R1 is for 12 - 24 volts operation (note: Most
flybacks will burn before long if you feed more than 12 volts to them, and even
the larger ones may be ruined instantaneously by internal arc over if you go
higher than perhaps 30volts... Experiment at your own risk, and be aware that
you may well loose your flyback at higher voltages. I normally run mine at
26volts, where it draws 4.5A when shorted (that's nearly 120Watts!!!). For short,
high power runs I feed it 36V at which point it draws over 6Amperes, outputting
216watts! It doesn't seem to mind it much after I replaced the feedback wire for
HV insulated wire and put epoxy over all connections. At this extremely high
power settings, the flyback sprays HEAVILY, and would arc to the core before I
had it insulated. I also had to place a drop of epoxy over each secondary tap
(since they are not needed, as only the main HV wire and the ground wire are
used in experimentation), but I rarely run it at such high voltages, since it is
obvious that it was not designed to output that (otherwise it wouldn't have
arced), and even though it is possible to extract over 40Kv from it (as I did in the
above experiment), secondary breakdown might eventually happen, if not from
flashover, than from corona breaking down the insulator that spaces the
secondary layers from one another.

You may replace R1 it with a lower value like 110 ohms for lower voltages, if you
want to keep the output power high (be aware that flyback secondaries are
wound with hair-thin wire and will *NOT* handle high output currents well... In
some cases, as much as 10mA may be possible with the flyback shorted, but than
again, you won't know until your secondary is ruined, so, again, experiment at
your own risk, and be aware of what will happen if you get carried away... In
most cases, the flyback will *NOT* get considerably warm even when run near
its limit (It is well insulated, and electrical insulation also happens to be good as
thermal insulation), so don't expect heat to be an indicator of how far you're
pushing it, as in a normal transformer... The transistor, however, will get hot if
you push it... And may burn much before your flyback does (more on that

Either way, 240 ohms will operate the circuit at voltages as low as 5V without
any problems. As the input voltage rises the power consumption on R2 (27 ohms)
increases. Although it seems as though it won't become hot as like R1, current
inducted on feedback winding uses R2 to reach the ground and this should be
added to the calculation. So check it's temperature and use a higher wattage one
if necessary. At 200Watts + I use 5W for R1 and R2... They get warm, but not too
much... The transistor, however, gets VERY hot!

Here is a short components list:

1 2N3055 NPN transistor, with complete mounting kit (2 plastic spacers, bolts
and nuts to hold it in place, mica insulator, and thermal compound).

1 Large heat sink for the transistor.

1 240Ohms, 5W resistor

1 27Ohms 1W resistor.

Flyback, hookup wire, solder, soldering iron, etc...

TESTING and Results:

If you mounted your resistors and transistors free-standing (yeah, sloppy, but
on a circuit as simple as this whoComplete circuit. cares? I will mount a final
version on a PCB when I have it tuned up better), it should look somewhat like
the picture to your right. (power is applied by alligator clips to R1(+) and R2(-)
and the switch is on my power supply (I use a fancy stabilized power supply,
capable of a variable 0 - 36V output at 0 - 11A, with an ammeter, a voltmeter, and
short circuit protection... If you plan on using anything nearly as expensive,
make sure to place a large DC filter cap between the power leads (I use one rated
at 45V 60000uF should do) to smooth out any HV spikes that may occur. And
NEVER, EVER, let the HV lead or the flyback itself get close to any of the
primary side components...

Also, make sure your power supply is capable of giving the 2-5 amps current the
circuit will take (this depends on the input voltage you'll be using, and the value
of R2), or just use one or two motorcycle batteries... My initial test runs were
performed with a 4A/h Lead acid battery... Cheap and reliable... Two would
make an excellent high power supply for a higher powered version of this circuit,
and should run for nearly one hour non stop. But again be aware that most
smaller flybacks will *NOT* take more than 12V input without arcing over

For the first test, make a spark gap (this can be just two pieces of stripped wire)
about 1mm in length, and apply power to the circuit. If you have a variable
power supply I suggest you increase the power slowly and observe the current
draw. If there is too much current being drawn (like a short), than the transistor
is gone (this happens far more often than I wish it did). If there is too little
current being drawn, than it is not oscillating (it should start oscillating at about
5V input) and you may need to reverse the leads on the feedback winding.

It is recommended to use a push button type switch, so that operation stops

when you release it: This is sometimes called a "Dead-man switch", and is a must
in any sort of high power equipment, where a shock would make render the
operator unable to cut off power... Sometimes the switch activates a relay... This
is a good idea when very high currents need to be switched, but that is not the
case here.

If it all works out, you should see a thin purple arc between the two terminals on
the spark gap. The arc will produce a faint hissing sound, which is associated
with it's frequency. As you draw the arc the hissing will develop into a high-
pitched whine, which will than increase in frequency until it becomes ultrasonic
(20 000Khz+) and you can't hear it any more. At high powers, the arc can be
drawn quite far... At 120W I could draw it over 3cm far at times, and at 180W it
could reach out to 5cm (2"). The maximum length you can start an arc at is
directly related to the output voltage. Although DC spark length vs. voltage
tables don't transfer too well into high frequency systems, the 30kV max a very
good flyback can produce will start an arc as far as 2cm... However, most likely
you will see it starting at 1cm or so... As a rough guide, you can calculate the
voltage by the distance the arc will start between two needle points: calculate
roughly 1.1kV per mm.

If it does not work, than the most probable cause of malfunction is the transistor.
Check if it is drawing current. Short circuit current and very little current are
both indications that it has been ruined (by over voltage or overheating,
respectively). Another thing to check would be the flyback, and see if its
secondary wasn't shorted (evidenced by localized heating after brief operation).

Also note that the capacitive current transfer is quite dramatic at these high
frequencies and voltages: Anything large and reasonably conductive will behave
as a ground to this system... Loose bits of metal, table surfaces, carpet, and a
human body will arc to the HV wire much like the ground wire does, producing
rather undesirable effects (burned carpet, burned table, burned fingers,
destroyed equipment... More on this below).
The term "Insulator" also becomes relative... The HV will burn through a
rubber glove like it wasn't there, and it will do the same to thin wire insulation...
You should use nothing but real High Voltage wire, rated for 30kV or more. It
should have two layers, the inner one a hard silicone plastic, and the outer one
made of rubber. Double braided wire with a grounded outer layer also works,
but tends to rob a lot of power from the system. Make sure the inner conductor is
copper (car ignition wire is carbon, and therefore too resistive to be of any use
here). Also mind the fact that any ground outside the wires will make them
behave like a capacitor, coupling energy to the ground... This is rather obvious if
you hold them in your hands: Your fingers quickly become warm! So make sure
to keep them away from any potential discharge point.

Below you can see some pictures of the flyback operating at maximum power
(about 225Watts). The output voltage is close to 40kilovolts, which is enough to
ionize the air without any ground nearby, as can be seen on the first picture. The
electrode used is a needle. The corona extends up to 3cm into the air, and once
struck the arc can be pulled up to little over 5cm. It hisses loudly and if held
there for long enough, will melt the steel needle! Click on the pictures to
download the video from which these frames were captured, or hover the mouse
cursor over them to see an explanation.

3cm of corona from the flyback operating at 40kV output in the first frame.
Than an arc is struck which stretches out to 5cm.
Also see the Ion Engine (729KB, .mpg) and the Voltage Multiplier (1.68MB,
.mpg) videos!


As with any other potentially hazardous device, you must accept the full
consequences of your actions if you choose to build this system. Although the
nominal output current is not lethal in itself (10mA at most, contrasted with the
35mA typically needed to fibrillate a human heart), and the high frequency
causes nerve response to be minimal (much like the human ear cannot hear
sounds of a very high frequency: Ultrasounds above 20 000Khz, human nerves
do not respond to very high frequency electricity (above 1kHz the nerve response
drops gradually), hence very little or no sensation of shock is felt, even as
significant currents flow through your body), there are still dangers that you
should be aware off, and I would not recommend a complete beginner or
someone who has no previous experience whatsoever with high voltage to try
this. At least not without supervision of someone who knows what he is doing.
The arc itself is plasma, and has a temperature well into the tens of thousands of
degrees. Although the low current makes it small and therefore not too
destructive, it will easily set on fire any flammable materials. The dangers are not
obvious: A flyback can set fire to a piece of wood just by sitting above it, and arcs
may trail over insulators and burn them in the process.

As far as the operator is concerned, an arc represents some dangers too: If

touched, it will immediately burn the arcing points, with a noticeable smell of
burned flesh and a black spot where the arc struck. Although the injury in itself
is small, it can cause one to involuntarily jump or jerk away from the power
source, and hurt himself against whatever is behind him (believe me, falling off
your lab bench after touching a high voltage wire is *not* funny!).

More importantly, the high voltage/high frequency output from the flyback will
instantaneously destroy *ANY* electronic equipment it comes into contact with...
Directly or not... So, if you brush against the wire while you're operating an
oscilloscope, or changing the channel on your TV (who would watch TV with a
flyback driver on... But I figured I better mention it just in case :o), it will be
ruined immediately... Letting it arc to metal structures or wires connected to
electronic appliances may have a similar result...

Finally, although the circuit in itself presents little danger besides the hazards
normally associated with high voltages and electric arcs and sparks, if you use it
to charge a high voltage capacitor it will become a real life threatening device.
Even small capacitors are capable of discharging tens or hundreds of amperes,
and will easily cause heart fibrillation, specially in people with previous (reported
or not) heart conditions. Hence, the use of cascades to multiply output voltage, or
capacitors for ionic experimentation is highly discouraged for beginners!


Now you have this circuit running, and you have played with it's beautiful arcs,
maybe fried a few bugs or cooked a grape, and burned some paper, and you
wonder what it can be really used for... Well, the sky is the limit!18kV 2mA
rectifier rods from an old TV set. You can start off by adding a full wave rectifier
to make the output DC, which can than be used to power ion motors (729KB),
charge capacitors, etc...

This can be used to power Jacob's ladders, a small Tesla Coil, ion engines, and
much, much more... With a cascade, very high outputs can be obtained. This
video (1.68MB) shows it producing sparks as large as 15cm! (estimated
60kV+)But first, make sure to check my plasma globe page to see an awesome
use for this device!
Flyback Driver Circuits

High Voltage with a Television Flyback Transformer

1 Sept 2003

Table of Contents

Safety: Safety is extremely important - a flyback is not a toy!

Introduction: Basic Introduction of flybacks and the driver circuit

Flybacks: What are they? How to get one? How to use it?

- (Frequently asked question: What on earth is a Flyback?)

Flyback preparation: Get your new flyback ready for use

Circuit 1: Ultra simple Single Transistor flyback driver circuit

- Parts you will need, and how to get it working *updated!*

Circuit 2: An even simpler circuit if you have a SMPSU

Testing and Results: Pictures and Videos of experiments *updated!*

Others:Other experiments and cool stuff

- The Jacob's Ladder

- The Ion Motor*new*

- The PLASMA GLOBE (another page)


Disclaimer: A flyback is not a toy! You must accept the fully consequences of
your actions should you decide to build a flyback high-voltage circuit!

This project involves high voltages (several 10s of kV), which creates electric
sparks that can easily jump an air gap. Despite the generally low current of a
flyback circuit, the high frequency (several 10s of kHz) and whisper quiet
operation can lead to complacency, especially because flyback arcs can appear to
be harmless (and due to their high frequency, may not feel like much while
current is flowing!). Electrical arcs are also very hot and can set fire to most
things. Please take all proper precautions when working with a circuit like this.
This project is highly discouraged for beginners without supervision.


This is probably one of the best and easiest project for someone who is familiar
with electronics, but wants to venture into high voltage. It requires little skills to
set up the circuit, and only simple adjustments concerning the circuit is required.
Although the power involved may not be very high, a small mistake might cause
severe electrical burns. However, if safety precautions are taken, some marvelous
high frequency arcs can be generated.
As far as I know of, this should be the easiest circuit with which a high voltage
output can be achieved. The original version of this circuit used 2 transistors.
Burak (link to his page) modified it to work with a single transistor making it
even easier and cheaper to build. Sam at Powerlabs has done the same circuit
and has also achieved some very nice results with his flyback. This circuit is
reproduced from Burak's page and is of his design (great job Burak!). Notice
that it only 3 components - two power resistors, one power transistor and
requires you to wind two windings on a flyback transformer!

Unlike a normal transformer which operates at 50 / 60Hz, a flyback transformer

is designed to operate at high frequency, so we cannot simply connect a primary
on the flyback powered from the mains (DO NOT do this!). Instead, we need a
circuit to generate a high frequency as input to the primary coil. While the above
circuit is beautiful in its simplicity, it does have drawbacks. It cannot be run at
very high power, and the transistor tends to get quite hot (and needs to be heat-
sinked properly). Still, it is a very simple circuit for making high voltage, and can
be used to draw electrical arcs, power Jacob's Ladders, plasma globes, and
running other HV cascades such as Marx generators.
How does the circuit work?

When power is applied to the positive and negative terminal, current begins to
flow through the resistors, as well as through the feedback winding to the base of
the 2N3055 power transistor (for those who get confused easily, the 3 pins from
top to bottom are Collector, Base and Emitter). This turns on the transistor, and
current flows through the primary coil. As this happens, a voltage is induced in
the secondary creating our high voltage spark. At the same time, another smaller
voltage is also induced on the feedback winding, opposite in polarity of the base
voltage (you'll need to make sure to wind the windings in the correct direction),
causing the transistor to turn off. As the magnetic field collapses, again high
voltage is induced in the secondary. Now there is no more feedback current in the
feedback coil, and once again current flows through the primary, and the cycle
repeats at its own natural frequency.

Because of this, the circuit is self-oscillating and settles at its optimal frequency
depending on the loading. For example, as the arc is struck and drawn longer,
the frequency increases from sub 20kHz to more than 20kHz, and becomes
ultrasonic resulting in a beautiful, whisper quiet spark. See below for
instructions on how to set this up easily!

Flyback Transformers

The heat of this project is a ferrite-cored transformer, known as a flyback. There

are different types of these transformers, and are used primarily as a method to
generate high voltages easily. As a result, they are often employed in devices with
cathode ray tubes such as oscilloscopes and televisions, to generate the high
voltage required. Because transformers inherently operate with alternating
current, they often need to be rectified with high voltage diode for use with these
tubes, and newer flybacks often contain an in-built diode. The older ones
however, have disc-shaped secondary coils, have easily removable primaries on
the other side of the ferrite core (new ones have the primary wrapped together on
top of each other), and do not have an enclosed diode (often removable). These
transformers look something like this:

Unfortunately these are starting to get more difficult to find. New flybacks with
in-built rectifiers are however useful, such as running Marx generators, playing
with ion-wind devices or charging up HV capacitors, but are useless for
experiments requiring AC output such as powering plasma globes. Ideally you
should try to find a flyback which either has a removable rectifier (usually
encased in it's own case in epoxy).

Other things to note are that these flybacks are sometimes stepped up on the
circuit board with some sort of cascade or voltage multiplier, and therefore have
a lower voltage secondary winding. Correspondingly, you should expect no more
than around 10kV from them at most. Some of the best flybacks for making the
highest voltages can be found in old black and white TVs. The nominal output
current of flybacks are usually a few mA at most, but arc current can increase to
several 10s of mA depending on the kind of driver circuit you are using.

But... what exactly is a flyback?

In short, a flyback is a type of high voltage transformer which generates high

voltage of several tens of thousands of voltages at a high frequency of several tens
of kHz. This high voltage is used to power the filaments of a Cathode Ray Tube
found in TVs or Oscilloscopes. Because they act as a transformer, there are often
extra windings on the secondary coil and provide lower voltages for other parts
of the circuit, hence the large number of pins at the bottom of the flyback and
they are used to power say the vertical and horizontal deflection coils, and so on.
For more information on flybacks, read this excellent page.
Now lets take a look at the two main types of flybacks.

Lets take a look at these two flybacks. Notice the modern flyback (black one) is
almost completely encapsulated with all the windings and HV diode (sometimes
with adjustable output and focus controls) encased in a black shell. Compare this
with an old-school flyback on the right with a fatter secondary. A fat secondary is
something to look out for, since the bigger it is, the more likely it is to have more
turns on it, and thus capable of higher voltage. Disk shaped secondary coils are
even better (like shown above). Unfortunately these are more difficult to find.

To find which is the secondary output's ground, you can use a multimeter,
connecting one end to the high voltage output (red wire for the modern one and
at the side of the secondary coil for the old flyback), and test all the pins at the
bottom. The one with the biggest resistance will be secondary ground. The other
pins are in fact auxiliary secondary windings / tapped secondary windings used
for generating other voltages in the TV or CRO, but we will not be concerned
with it for the purposes of making the highest voltage possible!

I got my flybacks from a TV shop and paid $5 for them, but they are easy to find
in old TVs thrown out in the trash. The general rule of thumb - the fatter the
secondary, the better the flyback for making high voltage!
Building the Flyback Circuit

Now let us get starting building our single transistor circuit. Some preparation
should be done first.

The first thing to do is to make sure your secondary coil is not burned out and
this can be done with the multimeter test as described previously. Remember to
mark the ground pin of the high voltage output. Next, inspect the ferrite core for
any defects such as cracks - ferrite is a very brittle material and you should be
careful not to damage it. Then we are ready to wind the primary coil.

As shown above, most flybacks these days have an open primary allowing us to
simply wind the primary coil. Old flybacks may have their own primary coil on
it, which we need to carefully remove first without damaging the core. Next is to
insulate the ferrite core (ferrite is partially conductive). we wouldn't want any
high voltage getting back into our primary circuit in the case of a secondary coil
failure! Capacitive coupling from the secondary may also induce some voltage in
the core. I wound several layers of electrical insulating tape on the core.

Now we can wind about 4 to 6 turns of reasonably thick wire onto the core. There
is no fixed number and do feel free to experiment to see what works best for you.
I found it best to wind the primary tightly and neatly, and then wrapping it with
more tape to hold it in place to prevent any mishaps such as it getting loose and
into contact with the secondary coil!
Your flyback should be like the diagram above now.

Next is to make the feedback windings. This is done in the same manner and
thinner wire can be used. Around 2-4 turns should be okay. Again this depends
on your particular flyback and transistor. Now your flyback should look
something like the diagram shown below.

Your flyback is completed and ready to roll! Now we need to wire up the driver
The Driver - Single Transistor (2N3055) Version

When you hook up all the components, here's how it will look like:

This circuit generates significantly higher voltages than the flyback was
originally designed to produce. Therefore, the pins at the botton of the circuit
may spray corona or even form electrical arcs to the ferrite core! If this happens,
covering the pins with epoxy or hot-glue might help since they are not needed. It
is possible to generate even higher voltages from a flyback with a even more
powerful driver but this may cause secondary coil insulation failure, rendering
the flyback dead! Another point to note is in drawing electrical arcs from the
output. Doing this continually stresses the secondary due to the high currents,
and may also cause thermal failure, so experiment at your own risk!

Some other points to note about the circuit is the power transistor. The transistor
WILL RUN quite hot, and significant heat-sinking is recommended. It is also
recommended that you obtain the high wattage white-ceramic resistors for use,
but they should not get too hot. The 2N3055 should be relatively easy to find, but
can be replaced with a similar high power transistor. Finally, it is advisable to
ground one end of the flyback (the bottom end that you found previously),
otherwise significant sparking may occur at the bottom pins.
It is extremely important that you * DO NOT * come in contact with the high
voltage output. While the output wire is designed for high voltage, I advise
moving it about with a short plastic pole for safety.

The final piece of the puzzle is that you will require a relatively high current 6 -
24V DC power supply capable of supplying several Amps of current. An
alternative is to use a few Lead Acid batteries to power the flyback. The values of
the resistor are not fixed, and values for 150 to 300 ohms should work for the 5W
resistor, and similarly 15 Ohms to 35 Ohms for the 1W resistor.

Updates! 16 Mar 04

I was originally not able to construct this circuit due to the lack of a good power
supply unit... however I have recently acquired a 34A 12VDC power supply unit!
(That's 408W of power!) The circuit is up and running!

Here is a photo of my current setup. It's free standing and messy, but it works.
I'll mount it in a nice box when all the fine tuning has been done. I am using a
12VDC switch mode power supply capable of supplying 34A. A car battery or a
Lead acid battery would work too (and of course be more portable). The power
supply must be capable of supplying around 3 - 10A, but this would depend on
the resistor values and of course the voltage input.

I placed a large DC electrolytic filter capacitor between the + and - of the power
supply, and this is recommend for expensive power supply units. The filter
capacitor helps smoothen out any switching noise from our circuit. My capacitors
look so large because they are 450V 4700uF capacitors, but obviously something
like 25V should work fine. Several thousand uF at 12V should work well.

I am using a 2N3055 power transistor... it was cheap and easy to find, though not
powerful enough for large power inputs. The resistors and everything else don't
get too hot, but the transistor DOES. It becomes Very hot very quickly even with
my heat sink in place. The heat sink will be upgraded to a larger one.

When everything is completed and working, there would be a small purple arc
between the two terminals. The arc produces a hissing sound and is associated
with its frequency. As the arc is drawn, it develops into a high pitched hiss and
slowly increase in frequency until it becomes ultrasonic (above 20,000hz) and it
becomes quiet. I hooked up a small flyback from a modern tv, and it starts an arc
at around 1.5cm. As a rough guide to calculate the voltage, it would be about
1.1kV per mm, giving me more than 16kV of high voltage!

When setting up the circuit, it might be possible that your feedback winding is in
the wrong direction - reverse the polarity and try again. You should also check
that the HV is arcing to the correct return - an easy way to find out is to simply
bring the HV wire to the bottom of the flyback. The spark should suddenly arc
like crazy to one of the pins - that is the return pin you are looking for. If all else
fails, check the temperature of your secondary. If it is too warm, you might have
a shorted secondary and the flyback is no longer useful.

More Updates! 7th June 04

The two large 4700uF caps have been replaced by a much smaller 62,000uF 40V
capacitor bank to filter switching spikes. The heat sink has also been upgraded to
a huge one and the transistor is much cooler. I noticed the resistors were starting
to get quite hot so I'll be replacing them with 5 or 10W resistors just to make sure
they don't blow. (My 1W resistor is turning brown!) Once everything is done, I'll
mount it on a board, or in a box.

Pictures coming soon!

Circuit 2 - Halogen Transformer Version

Want to drive a flyback but don't have time to get the components or lacking a suitable 6 to 24V
power supply? There is a great alternative! This was suggested by mws on an online electronics
forum. The secret is to use a switch mode power supply 12V transformer such as the one below.
The photo below is from him.

Parts List:

1. Insulated Wires
2. A Flyback
3. A SMPSU (Switch Mode Power Supply Unit) Electronic 12V halogen transformer. These are
used for 12V halogen lights, and different from normal iron-cored transformers (which run at 50-
60hz and are thus not suitable, and are much heavier!). These are electronic transformers with
lots of components inside.

These electronic transformers deal away with the heavy iron core of a normal transformer and
run at a high frequency of around 20kHz to reduce the size and weight. Because of this, they
output a high frequency, low voltage current that just happens to be perfect for driving a flyback!
Above is what a good electronic transformer would look like. In this case, it has an output of
11.5VAC. This model supports a hefty 210 watts. All we need for an excellent flyback driver!
However, in where I live in, it is difficult to obtain such a SMPSU. So I am currently using a
smaller 50W electronic halogen lighting transformer. Try to get the good models (above 70W).
Apparently, where I stay, I can't find any shop selling high powered electronic transformers so I
am stuck with poor 50W transformers which can blow up if run for extended periods of time.
Experiment 15 - Cockcroft Walton Multiplier

© Engineer Xavier Borg - Blaze Labs Research

One of the cheapest and popular ways of generating high voltages at
relatively low currents is the classic multistage diode/capacitor voltage
multipler, known as Cockcroft Walton multiplier, named after the two
men who used this circuit design to be the first to succeed in
performing the first nuclear disintegration in 1932. James Douglas
Cockcroft and Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, in fact have used this
voltage multiplier cascade for the research which later made them
winners of the 1951 Nobel Prize in physics for "Transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially
accelerated atomic particles". Less known is the fact that the circuit was first discovered much
earlier, in 1919, by Heinrich Greinacher, a Swiss physicist. For this reason, this doubler cascade
is sometimes also referred to as the Greinacher multiplier.
Unlike transformers this method eliminates the requirement for the heavy core and the bulk of
insulation/potting required. By using only capacitors and diodes, these voltage multipliers can
step up relatively low voltages to extremely high values, while at the same time being far lighter
and cheaper than transformers. The biggest advantage of such circuit is that the voltage across
each stage of this cascade, is only equal to twice the peak input voltage, so it has the advantage
of requiring relatively low cost components and being easy to insulate. One can also tap the
output from any stage, like a multitapped transformer. They have various practical applications
and find their way in laser systems, CRT tubes, hv power supplies, LCD backlighting, power
supplies, x-ray systems, travelling wave tubes, ion pumps, electrostatic systems, air ionisers,
particle accelerators, copy machines, scientific instrumentation, oscilloscopes, and many other
applications that utilize high voltage DC.

How it works

The Cockcroft Walton or Greinacher design is based on the Half-Wave Series Multiplier, or
voltage doubler. In fact, all multiplier circuits can be derived from its operating principles. It
mainly consists of a high voltage transformer Ts, a column of smoothing capacitors (C2,C4), a
column of coupling capacitors (C1,C3), and a series connection of rectifiers(D1,D2,D3,D4). The
following description for the 2 stage CW multiplier, assumes no losses and represents sequential
reversals of polarity of the source transformer Ts in the figure shown below. The number of
stages is equal to the number of smoothing capacitors between ground and OUT, which in this
case are capacitors C2 and C4.
1. Ts=Negative Peak:C1 charges through D1 to Epk at current ID1

2. Ts=Positive Peak:Epk of Ts adds arithmetically to existing potential C 1, thus C2 charges to

2Epk through D2 at current ID2

3. Ts=Negative Peak:C3 is charged to 2Epk through D3 at current ID3

4. Ts=Positive Peak:C4 is charged to 2Epk through D4 at current ID4.

Output is then 2n*Epk where N = number of stages.

In reality several cycles are required to reach full voltage. The output voltage closely follows the
curve of an RC network as shown above. R is the output impedance of the ac source, whilst C is
the effective dynamic capacitance of the CW multiplier. This charging occurs only upon
switching on the CW multiplier from a discharged state, and does not repeat itself unless the
output is short circuited. Most common input AC waveforms are sine waves and square waves.

Designing CW multipliers

This is a 3 stage CW multiplier, commonly known as tripler, used in most

of the early B&W and colour TV's. The voltage drops rapidly as a function
of the output current. In some applications, this is an advantage. The output
V/I characteristic is roughly hyperbolic, so it serves well for charging
capacitor banks to high voltages at roughly constant charging power.
Furthermore, the ripple on the output, particularly at high loads, is quite

This is a simulation of a 3 stage CW multiplier. The input is a sinewave 10kV peak voltage.
Vn(n003), V(n005) and V(out) are the voltage levels at each stage, referenced to ground.
Theoretically, V(out) = 2n*Epk= 2*3*10 = 60kV. As you can see from the above simulation, the
loaded output never reaches this value due to the poor voltage regulation of the CW as discussed
The output voltage (Eout) of each stage is nominally twice the peak input voltage (E pk). It is
relatively easy to step the voltage by one order of magnitude (say 100kV to 1MV) with just 5
stages. This circuit is in fact frequently used to generate megavolts, and as shown above,
although the actual components and physical dimensions get larger, the concept remains exactly
the same.

Eout = 2n*Epk - VDrop .... VDrop=0 under no load

For example, in a 3 stage CW, the no load voltage E out = 2 * 3 * Epk

If Epk was 10 kV, then the output of the circuit would be 60 kV. In practice, the output is lower
due to the parameter VDrop, particularly with a large number of stages. Each hv diode drops the
voltage across it by about 250v at its rated current and a power loss (250*Idiode) within each
diode occurs during each charging cycle. The steady state current Idiode is equal to the steady
state load current Iload. For this reason, heat dissipation may become a problem with small
diodes, which could be immersed in oil to alleviate this problem. Capacitors tend to be more
efficient, and their only concern is their voltage rating.

Regulation and ripple calculations

The voltage drop under load is mostly reactive and can be calculated as:

VDROP = [Iload/(6fC)] * (4n3 + 3n2 - n)

Iload is the load current (Amps)
C is the stage capacitance (Farads)
f is the AC frequency (Hz)
n is the number of stages.

Substitiuting for VDROP in the previous equation, we get:

Eout = 2n*Epk - [Iload/(6fC)] * (4n3 + 3n2 - n)

Example: A 3 stage CW, driven by a 70kHz peak voltage of 10kV, with capacitors value 390pF,
and a load current of 10mA:

VDROP = [Iload/(6fC)] * (4 n3 + 3 n2 - n)
Eout = 60kV - 8kV = 52kV

The ripple voltage, in the case where all stage capacitances (C1 through C(2*n)) are equal, may
be calculated from:

Eripple = [Iload/(2fC)]*n*(n+1)

In our example:

Eripple = [Iload/(2fC)]*n*(n+1)
Eripple = [10mA/(2*70E3*390E-12)]*3*4 = 2.2kV

So the output voltage will swing between 52kV and 49.8kV. Below is a SPICE simulation of our
circuit example, being very close to our calculated ripple value.
As you can see from this equation, the ripple grows quite rapidly as the number of stages
increases (as n squared, in fact). A common modification to the design is to make the stage
capacitances larger at the bottom, with C1 & C2 = nC, C3 & C4 = (n-1)C, and so forth. In this
case, the ripple and voltage drops are given by:

Eripple = n * Iload/ fC

Vdrop = n2 * Iload/ fC

For the above example, this modification will reduce the ripple voltage from 2.2kV to just 1.1kV,
and the voltage drop from 8kV to 3.3kV.

Once a load is connected at the output, the output voltage decreases due to the voltage regulation
mentioned above. Also, any small fluctuation of load impedance causes a large fluctuation in the
output voltage of the multiplier due to the number of stages involved. For this reason, voltage
multipliers are used only in special applications where the load is constant and has a high
impedance or where voltage stability is not critical. Some engineers compensate for this
fluctuation by incorporating a feedback loop, which varies the input voltage of the Cockcroft
Walton multiplier according to the actual output voltage.

For large values of n (≥5), the 3n2 and n terms in the voltage drop equation become small
compared to the 4n3. Differentiating the EOUT equation without these negligible terms, with
respect to the number of stages and equating to zero to find the peak of the curve, gives an
equation for the optimum (integer) number of stages for the equal valued capacitor design:

d/dn{Eout} = d/dn{2n*Epk - [Iload/(6fC)] * (4n3)} = 0

2Epk = Iload/(6fC) * 3 * 4n2

Noptimum = INT[SQRT( Epk * fC/Iload)]

If we differentiate the Eout equation, this time including the 3n2 and n terms, we get a more
accurate equation, also valid for n<5:

Noptimum = INT[SQRT(3Iload*(7Iload+48fC*Epk))/(12*Iload) -1/4]

If we drive our CW with an input voltage E pk=10kV and a load of 10mA, running at 70kHz and
390pF capacitors, Noptimum=INT[5.22]=5 (using the first equation), and N optimum=INT[4.988]=5
(using the second equation) so we go for a 5 stage CW multiplier.

If we know the driving voltage E pk and the required output voltage Eout, we can also approximate
the optimum number of stages from:
Noptimum = INT[3 EOut/4Epk]
*(1) Cockcroft Walton Optimum Design Guide by Michel Jullian

The full wave CW

Increasing the frequency can dramatically reduce the ripple, and the voltage drop under load,
which accounts for the popularity of driving a multipler stack with a switching power supply. A
clever way to reduce ripple is to implement a full wave voltage doubler as shown below. This
effectively doubles the number of charging cycles per second, and thus cuts down the voltage
drop and ripple factor. The input is usually fed from a centre tapped ac transformer or MOSFET
H-bridge circuits.

As with the classical CW, the full wave CW output voltage is given by:

Eout = 2n*Epk - VDrop

For example, in a 3 stage full wave CW, the open circuit voltage (no voltage drop) : E out = 2 * 3 *
If Epk was 10 kV, then the open circuit output voltage would be 60 kV.

Regulation and ripple calculations for full wave CW

The voltage drop under load can be calculated as:

VDROP = [Iload/(6fC)] * (n3 + 2n)

Iload is the load current (Amps)
C is the stage capacitance (Farads)
f is the AC frequency (Hz)
n is the number of stages.

Substitiuting for VDROP in the previous equation, we get:

Eout = 2n*Epk - [Iload/(6fC)] * (n3 + 2n)

Example: A 3 stage full wave CW, driven by a 70kHz peak voltage of 10kV, with capacitors
value 390pF, and a load current of 10mA:

VDROP = [Iload/(6fC)] * (n3 + 2 n)

Eout = 60kV - 2kV = 58kV

The ripple voltage, in the case where all stage capacitors are equal, may be calculated from:

Eripple = [Iload/(2fC)]*n

In our example:

Eripple = [Iload/(2fC)]*n
Eripple = [10mA/(2*70E3*390E-12)]*3 = 550v

The optimum number of stages for a given output and input voltage is given by:

Noptimum = INT[0.521 EOut/Epk]

Construction of my 5 stage CW multiplier rated 75 kV output at no load
Used to power our Super V1.0 Thruster

See also:

BlazeLabs Resonant Multipliers

CW / BRM Online Java calculator

Cockroft-Walton and Villard Cascade High Voltage Multiplier Tips

If you want to build a high voltage low current supply in the 40kV-150kV range then here are some tips:

1) Don’t use a neon sign transformer or the 120V from your power outlet. The reason is that these are
too low in frequency, and the latter is too low in voltage. The 60 Hz frequency means every second there
will be 60 push-pull cycles on the multiplier, but the typical HV capacitors you can buy tend to lose their
charge faster than that. This means the output will be pathetic and have deep ripples as the voltage can
never maintain high levels consistently. Metaphorically it’s like an old car or lawnmower sputtering while
trying to start up. Now, if you use large enough capacitors then yes you can get by with neon sign
transformers, but cost and size of the capacitors become issues.

2) Use a flyback transformer instead. These run at 8kHz to 30Khz, way better than the 60Hz. That’s fast
enough that the capacitors in the multiplier will stay charged up and the output remains relatively
smooth and high in voltage. Then you can use 330pf, 1000pf, or 10nF high voltage capacitors and do just

3) Make sure the flyback output is AC, not rectified DC. Some flybacks have diodes and smoothing
capacitors built in. The problem then is that only the ripple component of that will offer a push-pull into
the multiplier, and hence you will barely get anything out since the ripple is low. Note that if you place
the ground wire near the output wire of a DC flyback it will generate a nice spark, but that doesnt mean
it’s AC.

4) Use a ZVS driver if you want to efficiently power your flyback. These can be had for 15 bucks off eBay
or aliexpress. You wind a center tapped winding on the flyback core with some insulated wire, anywhere
from 5-center-5 turns (10 turns total) to 15-center-15 turns (30 turns total). That means three wires
come out from this primary that you wind, which you insert into the corresponding ZVS screw terminals.
The higher the number of turns, the lower the frequency and lower the voltage output of the flyback.
This may be necessary to avoid blowing your diodes and capacitors.

5) Voltage output from the flyback can be gauged by measuring the spark length beween bare wire tips.
It will be approximately 1kV per millimeter. So 1 centimeter = 10mm = 10kV. This is a very rough
estimate. So if you wind 20 turns total and find that the voltage is around 12kV but you need 8kV, then
reduce the output by winding a proportionately higher number of turns: take 20 times 12 divided by 8 =
30 turns (15 and 15).

6) Capacitors must be rated a little higher than the flyback voltage. So if the flyback outputs 15kV, then
the capacitors should be rated 20kV or higher.

7) Diodes must be rated twice the flyback voltage. Thus if all you can find are 20kV diodes, the input
must be 10kV or less. Or, you can put two diodes in series to bring that up to 40kV rating, twice a 20kV
input. So for a 15kV input from the flyback, you can use 20kV capacitors and then two 20kV diodes in
series. To double the current rating, put two diodes in parallel. Thus to double voltage and current rating,
you should have two pairs of diodes (two in series, and then two of that in parallel = 4 diodes) instead of
just one diode.

8) Use an output resistor to protect your diodes from too much current. If you short circuit your
multiplier, or allow it to produce nice big sparks, then without a resistor you will get some very high
current surges that will likely burn out one or more of your diodes. Get a high voltage resistor, 100Mohm
to 500Mohms, 10 watts or higher. These can be bought off eBay or aliexpress. They look like long red

9) Stack your capacitors in parallel in the earlier stages. For the first 1/4 of your multiplier, it’s helpful to
have higher capacitances. This helps build up more charge to power the rest of the multiplier more
smothly. It allows for better load handling (less voltage reduction and ripple once a load is connected).
So the very first two capacitors can be 3 or 4 in parallel, next stage 2 or 3, and next stage 2, and the rest
1. That is, if you can afford buying extra capacitor for that purpose. You can get by without doing this, but
if you have caps to spare then it’s a good idea to parallel them up.

10) Use corn / canola / vegetable oil as an insulator instead of mineral oil. The properties of such oils is
equal or better than mineral oil and it’s non-toxic, and potentially cheaper. That is, put your multiplier
circuit in a tub or well-sealed (at the bottom at least) PVC or clear acrylic tube and fill it with oil. This
prevents arcing that normally occurs in air, since oil has 3x the dielectric constant of air. Some people use
paraffin wax with a few hot glue sticks dissolved in there to prevent shrinkage upon cooling, but a solid
potting compound like this is a pain to remove if one of your diodes blows. Also, if an arc does form in
oil, the oil is fluid and heals itself whereas a solid dielectric will have a little hole blown through where
the arc went, encouraging further arcing.

11) Make sure your output resistor and beginning of the output cable are immersed in the oil too. The
voltage prior to hitting the resistor is pretty high and has a tendency to arc over to ground if exposed to
the air. So that part need to be in the oil. The upper half of the resistor doesn’t have to be, but if it fits
under the oil then that’s better.

12) Use silicone as a sealant, not hot glue. Oil will dissolve hot glue. Silicone, the kind used on bathtubs
and window sills, is a decent dielectric insulator and resists oil and breakdown from ozone and UV. Get
the low odor formula if available.
13) If you need a low-ripple output, dual polarity (not just one polarity and ground, but -kV, +kV, and
ground) and good load handling, then use a Villard Cascade instead of Cockroft Walton. It’s basically just
two half-the-number-of-stages Cockroft-Walton multipliers that meet at their bases. So the flyback
voltage feeds into the center of the circuit rather than the beginning. The advantage is that with half the
number of stages per polarity, you get a better smoother output. The thing about Cockroft-Walton is that
ripple and sag (from bad load handling) increases dramatically with the number of stages. Use half that
number, and problems go away. So instead of 0 to 100kV, you get +50kV and -50kV but with a stronger
smoother output voltage.