Friday, May 31, 2013

Minuet 1.x

Time to go solid state!

For my first solid state coil, I decided to go with something on the moderate side of complexity, basing it off of Steve Ward's mini SSTC schematic:

Operating Principles

Tesla coils are resonant air-cored transformers.

A primary inductor is coupled to a secondary inductor, resulting in a voltage step-up that allows for the breakdown of air after the secondary exceeds air's dielectric voltage (~3 × 106 V/m). 

By using an air cored transformer, Tesla coils avoid the pesky core saturation that would otherwise limit the magnetic field and the resulting high voltage. 

The simplest variation of a Tesla coil, a spark gap coil, consists of the following:

SGTC Schematic

When the primary tank capacitor reaches the voltage neccesary to arc across the spark gap (literally two electrodes separated by air), an LC circuit is formed that exhibits a resonant frequency.

Spark gap Tesla coils (SGTCs) and Dual resonant solid state Tesla coils (DRSSTCs) use two resonant tuned circuits (The primary and secondary) to more effectively transfer energy from the primary to the secondary coils. This is achieved by the phenomenon in which at resonance, impedances and reactances effectively cancel each other out.  

Given the resistive nature of the primary and secondary, the oscillations at the resonant frequency in both sides of the transformer will undergo decay and display waveform damping. This damping effect produces distinct RF "cycles" that are offset by 90 degrees. It's during each cycle that energy is exchanged through the changing magnetic field.

Simple solid state Tesla coils only have a secondary which is coupled to a primary inductor. The primary inductor is then driven at the resonant frequency of the secondary. 

Being driven at resonance requires current to flow back and forth in the inductor at a resonance frequency (simulating AC). In a solid state coil, this is achieved through transistors assembled in either a half-bridge or a full bridge (H-bridge) with the primary inductor acting as the load. The resonant frequency of most secondaries is around a few hundred kHz and bus currents and voltages linger around in the tens of amps and 240V (bus voltages will vary from topology to topology), this puts quite a bit strain on the transistors, limiting the field of options down to two types of transistors: MOSFETs (Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors) and IGBTs (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors); the transistor strain is limited by the fact that most of the oscillations are induced in pulses i.e. the coil is kept in operation in short bursts to prevent overheating. Spark production is also noticeably different when driven in an "interrupted" mode as opposed to continuous duty. 

More often, IGBTs are favored over MOSFETs because they exhibit diode-like voltage drop while MOSFETs exhibit a resistive drop that increases with current.

Dual resonant variations of solid state coils include a tank capacitor in the primary side circuit, creating, like a spark gap coil, an LC circuit while in operation. The addition of a capacitive element to the circuit also cancels out the inductive reactance of the primary coil, thus allowing for currents orders of magnitude greater than regular SSTCs to propagate within the primary.


Spark gap coils are tuned via physical parameters: the inductance of the primary, the capacitance of the tank capacitor, etc. 

In solid state coils, the resonant frequency is maintained by some sort of feedback mechanism. SSTCs generally use antenna based feedback (literally reaching into the electric field produced by the secondary), which induces a changing voltage as the field changes, while DRSSTCs required primary feedback as the secondary is out of phase with the primary. SSTCs are unable to use primary feedback because the current isn't effectively measurable due to the lower primary currents found in SSTCs. 


Minuet 1.x was intended to be a single-boarded audio modulated SSTC; unfortunately, it's had a hard and very confusing life.

Evolution (to be added when I bother to take some pictures)

At one point, it did produce sparks, albeit only in continuous wave operation:


6'' sparks run continuous wave
The board since exploded after the addition of a fiber-in jack to more reliably interrupt operation. Maybe duty cycle issues?

If any good came out of this project, it's the list of things you shouldn't do

The project was abandoned in lieu of -oneTesla (negative oneTesla) 5/29/13. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Herp Derp

me:  ben, I'm in school
get me out of here
halp me
 Ben:  hue hue
 Sent at 10:23 AM on Monday
 Ben:  I'm at home
 me:  T^T

Spark Gap Tesla Coil 1.0

Conceived during a summer that probably could've gone to better use (Junction, whyyyyyyy did I attend you???), SGTC 1.0 was what first got me into the whole business of shooting lightning.

Long exposure is best exposure.
Design Considerations:

- At some point, I want this thing to shoot monster streamers, so being able to swap components would be nice.

- Demos are far more fun when things work.

-Hnngggghhhh *ahem*

Construction breakdown:

-Two sheets of HDPE held up by threaded rod columns
- Fan bolted onto a piece of plexi that was subsequently ziptied onto the threaded rod (farming hard)

- Donated by the Daniel Kramnik
- 4" diameter, 2.5'~ tall
- 24 AWG???
- Resonant frequency ~555kHz
- Added toilet flange for increased mounting stability to chassis

- 1/4" copper refrigeration tubing wound spiral-style
- Added supports for sexiness

-  Some very sad aluminum ducting wrapped in even sadder aluminum tape. Not exactly my best handiwork.

- Scavenged Panasonic metal film caps
- Rated for ~8kV 
-Capacitance: ??? (something in the 0.005uF range)

- 9kV, 30mA (problem, MMC?)

Spark Gap
- Zinc-plated hardware (a bad idea)
- Cooled via muffin fan (a yummy idea)

Here, have some pictures media!

Note: bleed resistors help
 prevent accidental electrocution
Protip: when laying the primary,
 go from the center outward 

mmmm, HDPE

14"~ streamers 

When's the best time to start a blog?

3AM on a school night, of course.