Introduction: A Reliable Plasma Speaker

Picture of A Reliable Plasma Speaker

I've seen multiple designs for a plasma speaker online, and quite frankly most of them suck. Some problems I noticed were constantly blowing up MOSFETs, distorted audio, excessive heating of the MOSFET(s) etc.

So, In this instructable I'll show you how to build the speaker that's on my website. Properly heat-sinked it'll be able to run continuously; I have run mine for a length of about 6 hours with no problems.


Step 1: Gather the Parts

You'll need some parts for this speaker, not too many but some.
You'll need:

Components:
4x  UF4007 diodes
4x 12 volt zener diodes
2x  IRFP250 mosfets. You can also use some better fets, the lower the Rds On the better. Just make sure they can handle at least 200V, flybacks make some nasty back EMF.
1x  SG3525 IC
1x LM7812
2x  22 ohm resistors
1x 2.2k resistor
1x 10k pot
2x 0.1uF (104) capacitors
1x 3.3nF (332) capacitor
1x 1uF (105) MKP capacitor
1x 2.2uF electrolytic capacitor
2x 10,000uF electrolytic capacitors If you use 40v 8000uF caps instead you can apply 36V and make the arc even bigger and louder. Just make sure to replace the 7812 with a 7815 or a 7818.

Other components:
A flyback transformer. You can get these out of old computer monitors, TVs etc.

A ferrite toroid. These may be inside computer monitors, but if you can't find one get it here.

Some 18ga wire.
Some 24 ga wire, the wire from inside of a telephone cable works great.

2 heat sinks, you can get them from a computer monitor. You'll need to use your scavenging abilities here.  If you use 1 heat sink make sure you use some insulating pads.

Thermal goop.


Step 2: Making the GDT

Picture of Making the GDT

The gate drive transformer is a part you'll need to make yourself. It consists of 3 strands of wire wrapped >14 times around a ferrite core. It's not much of an exact science, just wrap it all nice and neat.  Use the 22ga wire for this.


Step 3: The Circuit

Picture of The Circuit

I know that some of you people aren't very electrically minded, so I decided to make a circuit diagram that is very easy to follow.  For those that do understand schematics, here's one.

Step 4: Breadboards

Picture of Breadboards
Building something for the first time is called prototyping. This is usually done on a device called a breadboard. I could bore you with a wall of text, but instead I'm going to link to a video that shows you how to breadboard.



Breadboards are relatively cheap, and it's a great investment. Breadboards have one flaw though; some parts have either pins that are too big to fit in the holes or they must be attached to a heat sink. To use these parts I recommend just soldering wires to them. Soldering isn't hard, but it's the best way to connect things.  There are plenty of soldering guides on the interwebs.

Make sure you put  a pin on the ends of the wires so they can plug into the breadboard. Also make sue you use heat sink goop (and insulators if 2 fets share a sink).


Step 5: Prototyping the Circuit

Picture of Prototyping the Circuit

Just hook it all together! It doesn't need to look nice, it just has to work.

There's an important note on the next step regarding the gate transformer.

Step 6: Phasing the GDT

Picture of Phasing the GDT

You must make sure the GDT is properly phased. Phasing is the direction of the transformer's windings. You must make sure that one output winding is reversed; this reverses the signal that it puts out. The purpose of the GDT is to isolate the mosfets from the chip. 

The mosfets are supposed to "flip flop" --one turns on as the other turns off. This means the gate signals of the fets are supposed to be opposite. If both the signals are the same, both the mosfets will turn on at the same time and they short circuit or possibly explode.

You want one signal inverted and to do that you reverse a winding; that inverts the signal. 

A picture will better explain what I'm talking about.  Also, make sure the wire in the middle is the one that's connected to the IC.


Step 7: Initial Tests

Picture of Initial Tests

For the initial test I recommend using a power supply that can't supply over 9000 amps. Unless you are confident that you have everything hooked up correctly I'd use a computer power supply to test it initially. Computer power supplies are current limited, and that means if you f*ck up and both of your mosfets turn on at the same time the PSU will detect a short circuit and turn off, saving your $2 FETS.

There are many guides on modifying computer power supplies to be used as bench supplies, and here's one of them.

Test your circuit by taping a drinking straw to the high voltage wire on your flyback. Then apply the power to the circuit and hope nothing blows up.  If everything is OK use that straw to move the high voltage wire to the pins on the bottom of the flyback.  You should be able to arc to at least one of the pins. If nothing happens you did something wrong. 

Make a note about which pin the electricity arcs to best. This is your ground pin.

Since this is only 12 volts and limited amps don't expect anything impressive. You're just making sure thing work.


Step 8: Apply the Juice!

Picture of Apply the Juice!

Alright now it's time for the big guns: Lead acid batteries. These things can supply over 9000 amps and they have no electrical noise whatsoever. They are usually 12 volts so you're going to need 2 of them.

You can either use car batteries or AGM batteries. I prefer the AGM ones because they are smaller and you can't spill them. A 12V 8Ah AGM battery usually sells on eGay for about 10 to 15 dollars. Lead acid battery chargers can be bought cheap on eGay too. Although batteries are not too cheap, they will become one of your most used "tools" if you start playing with circuits. 

Put them in series to get 24V.  

When you apply the juice to your circuit the arcs will be hotter and longer. Apply music to the circuit. You'll need a "clean" music source; an ipod makes tons of electrical noise. I used the sound card from my computer,  some mp3 players may work too. Turn the volume all the way down and then up a little because too loud a signal can kill the IC. Plasma speakers aren't too loud so you'll need a quiet room to hear it.

Turn the pot until distortion of the music is at its lowest.


Step 9: Make It Last

Picture of Make It Last

To make the thing last you'll want to put it on a perfboard. These are pretty much blank circuit boards with plenty of holes. Buy perfboard, not vero or strip board. Strip/vero board is a PITA to use.

Once again, perfboarding has been covered by others. 

Have fun!


Comments

LastOfTheGamers. (author)2017-09-08

Hello, I attempted to make this circuit but I'm not even getting an arc. I looked over the diagram several times but I couldn't figure out the problem. The MOSFETS are stone cold so I think it could be my gate drive Transformer but I'm not sure.

Thanks,

Guill101 made it! (author)2017-02-04

Hey Friend, I´ll get it!!

You have the schematic and the gadget pictures.

I feel the music but very low.

The only problem I have is the arc is only 1 cm an the power source is a 12V, 12.5A but the Amp measure in the primary is less than 0,5A

Any idea where is the problem?

JohnSmith64 (author)2017-01-17

Can i use 12 v dc power supply with out LM 7812 ?

RocketPenguin made it! (author)2017-01-01

Link to Operation of it:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOvRPhSgG6huIEMp_TeMrT...

Am very happy with it. Once the electrodes heat up, there is zero noise. The music comes across quite well, and the mosfets stay cool/warm, well within acceptable range. The only problem is, is powering it. Currently use a moped battery, which allows it to run for a continuous 1.5-2 hours, followed by a recharge.

rah187 (author)2016-12-29

Also, one other thing... You mentioned that it had to be a "clean" music source... I am very hesitant to plug my ipod into this thing, let alone my phone (which is where I have all of my music, anyway). Can I use one of those $5.00 bluetooth modules so I don't jack up my two only music sources?

rah187 (author)2016-12-29

This project sounds great! I have all of tthe parts for it, but I do not have a car battery, let alone two... and I don't have a lot of money for purchasing batteries. Is it possible to use some electrical transformers? I know there will not be as much amperage, but I can buy (oor salvage) two 12v electrical transformers, no problem.

dansassin (author)2016-06-19

What would be the required current supply for this? I'm not sure if my power supply is beefy enough.

dansassin (author)2016-06-19

What would be the required current supply for this? I'm not sure if my power supply is beefy enough.

dansassin (author)2016-06-19

What would be the required current supply for this? I'm not sure if my power supply is beefy enough.

RobbyD9 (author)2016-06-07

what are the applications of plasma speakers..???

mtns1 (author)2016-04-03

Hello!

I managed to make this circuit to work,but with a problem. without any audio
input i have a clean 1cm arc at 24V 0.7A using a regulated power supply.
My SG3525AN is generating a little heat,don't know if this is good.

I have trouble finding a clean audio source,since everytime i plug a
phone,ipod,mp3,PC the arc is distorted and i can't make it clean even if i use
the 10k potentiometer. Does someone have an idea what i have done wrong? it's
like something is wrong with my IC and the audio inpuit.

Used 0.65mm diameter copper magnetic wire on a 2,5cm diameter ferrite toroid
with 14 turns,wired it just like in the image, insulating pads on the mosfets
and 7012. I also tried 2 different flybacks,with 4,then 6,then 10 turns on
primary ,the same result. Used 4x UF4007.

If I short the audio pins I have a hiss-like sound from it. If I connect an audio
source,even with the audio muted again I have hiss sound.

I appreciate all the help I get,many people on the comments have the same
hiss problem like me.

Thanks and nice project!

wlivingston1 (author)2015-10-19

Hey I was wondering what would need to be modified to make this wall powered??

becker990 (author)wlivingston12016-03-28

just make/buy a simple power supply, use a linear one (with a heavy transformer inside) and not the switching ones (cellphone chargers like)

becker990 (author)2016-03-28

excellente circuitry! are u an eeng?

Father Torque (author)2016-02-20

I was checking the voltage across the audio input jack and found that on start-up the jack has roughly 3VDC that decays over about a minute to the mV range. Anyone else get this? Since its a slow decay, would an isolation transformer be useful to keep this from going into the audio device?

ELECTROOPO (author)2015-10-08

it's possible to use this circuit for a tesla coil speaker or I need a powerfull mosfet??

amegantoro (author)2015-09-28

excuse me...
do this fets work?

irfp260n

thanks...

arcans (author)2015-08-20

Do this fets work as well?
IXYS IXTP48N20T

MaRmott (author)2015-04-11

I made this and checked the wired several times but I don't seem to get any voltage across the 6 turn coil that goes to the flyback. Anybody else have this issue?

peter.tydlacka (author)MaRmott2015-04-20

I am also not getting any voltage to the flyback. Not sure what is exactly going on but hope to get it figured out soon.

arcans (author)peter.tydlacka2015-08-20

Do you have any results? I face the same problem

Samuel Aplin (author)2015-05-21

So you tell us the resistor ohms but do not tell us the wattage how are we going to assemble this thing?

would we use 1/4 or 1 watt resistors

Babacool51 (author)2015-05-20

Hey guys,

I don't have SG3525 then I made PWM with three TL081. All work well except the Flyback I didn't try yet and the output of TL081 : Indeed when I link the capacity and the GDT with the last TL081 I loose the signal as if there was an output resistance which wasn't small enough behind the inductance to be neglected.

Thank you to help me =D. And sorry for my bad english.

kwberlin15 (author)2015-03-11

does it matter if it's FU4007CT-ND or the normal FU4007?

froggyman (author)2013-12-11

Other than the regulator what do you think would need to be replaced on this circuit to operate at 50-170VDC? I'm winding my own transformer for this to drive, and will most likely be powering it from a variac (with rectifier and smoothing caps). I know the 2 large electrolytic caps would also need to be replaced. Do you think these could be replaced with a much lower capacitance mylar capacitor like what some SSTCs use?

Also, this is a great circuit (I have it working as instructed right now)! I found that by removing the 2.2K resistor (careful not to turn the potentiometer all the way down!!!) and replacing the 2.2uF electrolytic capacitor with a 0.47uF mylar capacitor I was able to get much clearer audio reproduction

tyler.ochs.7 (author)froggyman2015-01-15

can you explain what changing those two components does? would it be alright to remove the resistor and leave the capaitor alone if i do not have one?

skylerlemmon (author)2015-01-07

Hello,

I tried this a few years ago, I never got it working. I thought I might share the progress I made. Here are my designs for EagleCad. Maybe you guys can find them useful. Keep in mind I made these when I was a sophomore is HS, so they're not perfect. Please let me know if you find any errors. Good Luck, i hope you find them useful!

http://www.mediafire.com/download/g3r9ywi0qs162w3/...

Skyler

EagleCad was giving me greif with the connections, so I went a little overboard on the redundancy with the extra junctions!

stiffyMKD (author)2015-01-07

Hi, I made the whole project a few times on a breadboard. The first time, i had problems with overheat, and when I removed the paint off the core I found out it's not ferrite. Second time I didn't get a spark which was my mistake and I solved that on the third time. My problem now is that I don't get a sound (music). Just some loud noise from the spark. Can that be because of low current supply (2amps) 'cos I'm getting pretty big spark around 1cm. Help...Got the spark, everything doing fine except for the main thing - the music.
Thanks in advance.

skylerlemmon (author)2014-01-15

grenadier thanks for the great instructable. I made a PCB and assembled the circuit.I get an arc of electricity, but I didn't get any music when I hooked up an old android phone, I know its not the best, but shouldn't I at least hear a little music?

stiffyMKD (author)skylerlemmon2015-01-07

@skylerlemmon would you please post a pcb design, or send it on my mail?

killivolt (author)skylerlemmon2014-02-11

Don't use it; it doesn't like them. Use a stereo system or something else.

jmcgall (author)2014-07-16

still no luck. Found a new transformer that had enough room for me to wind a primary coil around but it seems like they still aren't getting enough juice. the arc is only a cm long max. I'm using 2 12v AGM golf cart batteries (32 a.hr) My GDT is made from a toroid i found with a flyback. I also have the blue toroids listed in this indestructible should i try those instead?

jmcgall (author)2014-07-15

Mine is almost finished! Unfortunately I can not make my own primary winding on my flyback, the arm does not leave much room under it, so I'll have to use one of the windings already internal. I have one that has a resistance of .5 ohms on pins 1 and 5 and one that has a resistance of .1 ohm on pins 2 and 3 idk which one would be better to use. I think the .5 is the primary and the .1 is the secondary as the .5 is directional (should have a high voltage diode inside) Guess I'll give it a shot and have the fire extinguisher ready to go.

adev6 (author)2014-06-16

Any1 actually made a working version of it ?

adev6 (author)2014-06-15

Could you post a built video ?

Jan_Henrik (author)2014-05-05

Very cool project!

coolkids (author)2014-02-22

i think u accidentally put sg3535 on the schematic instead of sg3525

osholt (author)2014-01-26

I've built part based around sg3525 up to and including the GDT. Nothing seems to happen. What waveforms / voltages should I expect on the output pins of the sg3525?

killivolt (author)osholt2014-02-11

You need the GDT. But don't use a Computer Power Supply core like I did. Buy the correct one.

killivolt made it! (author)2014-02-11

So, what ever you do don't use a Computer Power Supply Core. Purchase all the part shown here, and it will be successful.

I did cut the heatsink in half, prevents knocking of the Mosfets; make sure you secure the GDT down and hot glue it to the board; maybe even varnish it. I will do this when I'm completely done. Short runs from the GDT to the Mosfets may also be a good idea.

triple_h (author)2014-01-12

Hi,

Do I need to change the value of the zener diodes? Because the power supply I going to use is 48VDC. thnx

Cathode sun (author)2013-12-11

What do i do with the other wires on the CRT?

froggyman (author)Cathode sun2013-12-12

I assume you meant the flyback? You're only interested in the thicker one (should have had a suction cup on it), and one of the pins on the bottom (that will be your ground).

Cathode sun (author)froggyman2013-12-12

the one i have was out of a computer monitor and it has three wires; the HV one with the suction cup, and two that are in a choke. One is at the top with the HV and the other is with the pins. Should i just cut them off?

arhodes18 (author)2013-11-20

I as well as it looks like a few others am having issues with the IC overheating. The only differences between my circuit and the actual one are 1) I used 13V zeners instead of 12V because I had some handy 2) I used different diodes on the IC (1N4005) because I couldn't find the UF4007's. Could either of these be related to the IC overheating?

grenadier (author)arhodes182013-11-21

Both are problems! You're shorting out your IC in two ways, actually.

http://www.fairchildsemi.com/Assets/zSystem/documents/collateral/onlineSeminars/Understanding-Diode-Reverse-Recovery-and-its-Effect-on-Switching-Losses-WP.pdf

arhodes18 (author)grenadier2013-11-24

Another question for you, will 1n4007 rather than my 1n4005 work instead of uf4007? Looking at that paper you sent I think not but I figured I would ask anyway.

grenadier (author)arhodes182013-11-29

The 1N4007 is just a higher voltage version of the 1N4005, so no.

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