Introduction: How to Make a Plasma Globe or Ignition Coil Driver

Picture of How to Make a Plasma Globe or Ignition Coil Driver

Hi if you are looking for a plasma globe driver or you want to make an ignition coil that zaps things, you have come to the right place. Recommended for people experienced in electronics only!

If your interested in jets here is mine:

First some safety issues; this project runs off 240v AC or 120v AC so please be very careful as house hold current can kill instantly, if you touch a live wire your hand will grab the wire and you wont be able to let go. I found this out the hard way. So do not make the same mistake as me. Oh when sparks jump to the earth they generate ozone which can kill if you breath in to much , only small amounts exist  in this case. I am not responsible if any property of yours is damaged or you or some one is injured in the process of making this.

To make this the components you will require are:

An ignition coil the old sort.

A light dimmer preferably over 1.5amps or 400w

Wire  any sort 

A large light globe incandescent for the plasma globe

A container if your making a plasma globe 

A cord that can plug in to the power point, please don't take the one of the TV or fridge find an old one that is no longer needed.

Some oil and a jar if you have a low rated dimmer.

A hot glue gun is very handy in making something like this.

Step 1: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

Get the active/ live wire of the power cord and connect it to the Ac active/ live wire as shown in the picture, then connect the neutral wire of the power cord and connect it to the Ac neutral wire. Please follow the diagram below.

Additional notes:

It does not seem to make a difference which wire on the dimmer is connected to the AC active/ live input line.

It DOES make a difference which wire on the capacitor is connected to the active/ live Ac wire, so make sure you connect the the active/ live AC wire to the positive side of the capacitor and the output from the negative side of the capacitor to the positive terminal on the coil. 

And as some people still dont understand, DON'T touch anything while it is plugged in or you will get fried. and make sure you discharge the capacitor before you touch any thing, just put a bit of wire across the capacitor till it sparks.

If your wondering what the rating is on the capacitor , it was about 1.2uf 400v-500v
the higher the uf rating the thicker the spark. i used one at 300 uf and the spark was about 4mm thick not recommended though it will kill alot easier than a thin spark. The small capacitor came from a household fan motor.

The dimmer , if you have a low rating dimmer like i did, take the plastic outer casing off the dimmer. which would leave you with a circuit board with a pot, resistors and capacitors on it. Turn the dimmer pot to about medium and chuck the hole thing in a small jar of oil, i used hydraulic oil. And have the wires poking out of two holes drilled in the lid.

The AC active/ live on the power cord would either be brown or red. The AC neutral wire is blue or black usually on the cord.

Step 2: Plasma Globe

Picture of Plasma Globe

To make the plasma globe thing, just find a container to stick the ignition coil in and the rest of the electronics. I used a bit of pipe with the bottom sealed off. get a lid and drill a hole for the light globe to fit in. Connect the light globe to the hv supply of the coil, by wrapping a bit of wire on the bottom of the globe, make sure the wire is touching the input points that go to the filament, connect the other end to the hv supply. Then fill the container with oil I used hydraulic oil some people use cooking oil or mineral oil. Don't forget to put a wire on the outside leading to the - terminal on the coil. Glue it up or just put on the lid make sure it is not going to leak.

Wrap an earth wire around the globe about 3 turns on the top and connect it to the wire that leads to the - terminal on the coil, that is the orange one in the picture.
The earth wire on the globe will make more sparks and ozone so be careful, it will work with out the earth wire but not as well. If any one gets one of these working, when it is running you should be able to smell something  strange, I am assuming that is ozone.
Also i added an extra RF filter to cut out the interference with other electronics. There should be an RF filter in the dimmer already. If the hv wire touches any other wires (plastic coated or magnetic) it may arc into that one.
It may look nice but DON'T touch it unless you wanna die.

The whole thing uses 100ma@250v and the output is about 0.9ma@ 30kV i think. Mine anyway yours may be different.

Step 3: Video

Here is a video also. And yes i need a beter camera. 

Please leave a comment good or bad.


sarvesh7 (author)2015-05-30

Was that an AC or DC capacitor?

brendonl (author)sarvesh72015-05-30

I just used a capacitor that you find in pedestal fans, which run off AC.

sarvesh7 (author)2014-05-22

an ignition coil is rated for 6V or 12V , then how did you use 220V

brendonl (author)sarvesh72014-05-22

I am pretty sure the capacitor limits the amount of current and maybe the voltage that goes into the ignition coil. The dimmer also does something along those lines. Maybe someone else has a better explanation...?? I think if you hooked it directly into the mains it would blow the ignition coil into next week!

sarvesh7 (author)2014-04-23

why is the oil needed

brendonl (author)sarvesh72014-04-23

It stops any arcing from the high voltage side, use mineral oil that is the safest.

sarvesh7 (author)brendonl2014-04-27

thanks a lot :)

sarvesh7 (author)2014-04-18

never dare to touch the globe but you can take some plasma out of the globe, just take a metal coin and ground to through a a wire . After that take the coin near the globe while holding the coin with a plier. (author)2011-08-08

I built one based off of another instructable with the exact same principle, I don't recommend this as my coil overheated, I blew up a capacitor, and I destroyed a light dimmer. But in the end it was a blast so as long as your safe and you enclose it your set up for a great time. Unsafe is overrated.

nerd7473 (author)jj.inc2013-04-12

that kind of sounds scary

brendonl (author)jj.inc2011-08-09

Mine has never done that, well actually I burnt out a light dimmer because I forgot to put the cap in, I was using it on a fly-back the spark that came out of the fly-back was about 2.5 inches long and fatter than a straw then the dimmer blew LOL
Did you use the right cap? (author)brendonl2011-08-09

LOL, no the cap I blew up was the electrolitic or something and it was fun though. The lightdimmer was when the capacitor got shorted out, and the coil is a 6v one.

leaualorin (author)2011-06-17

"Connect the light globe to the hv supply of the coil, by wrapping a bit of wire on the bottom of the globe, make sure the wire is touching the input points that go to the filament, connect the other end to the hv supply. Then fill the container with oil I used hydraulic oil some people use cooking oil or mineral oil. Don't forget to put a wire on the outside leading to the - terminal on the coil."
I don't get it :
In order to connect the light bulb (globe) to the HV supply of the coil I must wrapp that wire to the BOTH OF THE INPUT POINTS THAT GO TO THE FILAMENT?!
And "the other end" goes were to the HV supply?!
Beeing just one HV lead in the middle and the "-" and "+" ...
You don't explain things too good and considering the high voltages and danger , YOU SHOULD EXPLAIN BETTER!
From your "explaining" I understand that I should wrapp a wire on both points of the light bulb(the small point on the bottom and the "threaded" part of the bulb and then run a wire to the HV end of the coil!
And on the outside of the bulb to put 3 turns of wire from the "-" of the coil!
And one more question: if I use instead of the light bulb a copper plate with 36 needles equally spaced betwen them all inserted in a glass box would it be the same?
Of course , some negative wire around it for the sparks to form!

bretta (author)2010-08-24

actually you have a chance at dying if you touch the bulb. me, being convinced i actually made a plasma globe touched it. it hurt like a son of a gun for about a minute but im still typing.

brendonl (author)bretta2010-08-24

Well didn't i warn every one not to touch anything while it is on, since mine doesn't have a big capacitor or dimmer it is safer than the rest. I did try one day to touch it through a fluro tube about 1.5cm thick and 40cm long, it wasn't very pleasant. The reason it probably hurt is, the spark can be more than 3000'c or you made it to powerful mine is 0.9ma@30kv.

brendonl (author)brendonl2011-05-15

correction ( big capacitor ON the dimmer)

Al3xX90 (author)2010-12-14

Hey the car coil didn't work on AC it works in DC because de car battery is DC and the dimmer is ONLY for AC don't put it in DC!

brendonl (author)Al3xX902010-12-16

It doesn't matter whether its AC or DC the coil doesn't mind. But as you said the household light dimmers only run on 120v or 240v AC. You can buy 12v DC dimmers off ebay. The reason for using the dimmer is it makes a pulse (PWM),
the coil can not run without a pulse.

Lectric Wizard (author)2010-08-22

It doesn't matter where on earth you live AC be it defination cannot have a positive & negative. This is extremely dangerous and no-one should play with ac voltages unless they understand electricity. What you should have done was use an AC transformer (such as a bell transformer ) to reduce the voltage to 12 to 18 VAC range. Than you can play safely. As a kid I built a spark gap transmitter with a toy train xformer & an ignition coil. Drove the neighbours crazy as I wiped out all TV & radio signals !! Keep working but please do it safely. Knowledge is the best safety equipment you can have so read up. By the way I'm an Electronics Technologist with 30+ years experience so I am speeking from a lot of experience.Cheers!!!!

brendonl (author)Lectric Wizard2010-08-22

This isn't supposed to be for people that aren't experienced with electricity for example i wouldnt say to a 14 year old kid go build this because it is extremely dangerous if you have no experience.The dimmer transforms the voltage down to 35vac and the whole thing uses 100ma at 250v convert that up to 30,000v and you get about 0.9 ma please correct me if iam wrong. I did some research and found you guys are right here is what i found on wiki but who cares it still works:Positive and negative In DC circuits (e.g. for a car battery) positive is usually marked red and negative is usually marked black. In AC circuits (e.g. domestic mains supply) polarity markings are not relevant (because the two poles are alternately positive and negative) but wires are colour-coded for live and neutral. [edit]Live and neutral It is important not to confuse positive and negative with live and neutral - they are completely different concepts. The old UK house wiring colours were red for live and black for neutral but this does not mean that live is positive or that neutral is negative. "Live" indicates that an electrical conductor has a voltage relative to ground (earth) and this voltage may be positive, negative or alternating. "Neutral" indicates that a conductor has a voltage, relative to earth, which is close to zero.

Lectric Wizard (author)brendonl2010-08-29

We are not trying to make you look bad or anything. When you publish something to the net you ARE talking to 14 year olds & 10 year olds. All We're trying to say to everyone is be safe and keep loving electronics. It, like fire, is a wonderful friend when you show it the respect it needs. It's a mean enemy when you don't !!! & as the saying goes "know thy enemy!" CHEERS!

brendonl (author)Lectric Wizard2010-08-29

You are right their, well I am 16 for people that may not know and i have lots of EXPERIENCE with electricity not enough to build a TV, but a computer yes.

Jimmy Proton (author)2010-08-26

does it matter if its a bi-polar cap or electrolytic?

brendonl (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-26

It shouldn't really matter as long as they don't over heat or then they will go BANG. Make sure they are rated below 1uf the lower the safer,and make sure they can handle the load.

Jimmy Proton (author)brendonl2010-08-27

ok, i was testing with different caps but i never even got it to work

brendonl (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-27

The capacitor: Also make sure the voltage is low enough but not too low 500v-400v if the mains is 240v. 200v-300v if mains is 120v. The cap voltage doesn't have to be exactly in that range. send me a photo or something if it still wont work, i will be happy to help, my email is

Jimmy Proton (author)brendonl2010-08-27

i am using 120vac with a 1000uf 200v cap but i have many others, i also have a 10000uf cap, i wonder what that would do haha, but it might be the coil, its very old and i got it from the junk yard, there are more out there though.

i used the correct cap and (i think) i got the wireing correct so its probli my coil, i can more so is nothing to worry bout

brendonl (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-28

Well if your using 1000uf capacitor that may be the problem iam only guessing. I used a fan/motor starter capacitor 1.2uf rating, like this one. good luck.

Jimmy Proton (author)brendonl2010-08-28

my coil says 12v 087 breakerless ignition with external resistor.

brendonl (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-28

Well the coils that i used were about 20-30 years old and they were bosch 12v external resistor cylinder type. so they are pretty much the same.

Jimmy Proton (author)brendonl2010-08-28

ok well i destroyed :p so its 2 late but like i said i can get more

Reffner (author)2010-08-21

Scary that someone who would build and post this thinks AC current has a positive and negative. So which one are you calling the "positive", seeing as both the black (the hot wire) and the white (the common wire) both carry current? Some clarifications is definitely in order here, or someone will get hurt. In your diagram your calling the black wire "negative." In AC wiring, the black wire is the HOT wire, and there is no red, unless your using a 3 conductor type of wire. If someone does make this, I hope they have the proper knowledge, or at the very least learn a little more about AC current.

Jimmy Proton (author)Reffner2010-08-28

actually hes did say neutral and live wires, he only said positive and negative terminals

mr.incredible (author)Reffner2010-08-21

Right on, very scary... Also, Ozone is just 3 molecules of Oxygen (O3). It is very unstable and will usually directly convert to the more stable O2 (standard oxygen). It will not kill you if you breath it. Some people will get a slight headache from positively ionized ozone. Negatively charged ozone is actually beneficial. The personal sized room air purifiers are usually ozone generators. They even have ozone generators that attach to your heat/air conditioners. All kinds of things generate ozone. Copiers and laser printers are a couple off the top of my head. (former copier tech)

Jimmy Proton (author)2010-08-24

you should wrap bare wire around the bulb and hook it to the opposite terminal

brendonl (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-24

Well i have got a bit of magnetic wire wrapped around the globe look really hard in the video and you will see. And no it doesn't really matter that it is magnetic, it is connected to the orange wire and that is connected to the AC neutral wire

Jimmy Proton (author)brendonl2010-08-24

it wont let me watch the video, i think its my computer cuz it dus it alot

brendonl (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-24

About the video it says " the selected file has an extension that is not recognised by windows media player ..." ignore that and select yes i want to play the file.

Jimmy Proton (author)brendonl2010-08-25

i o didnt see that but il try again

it sais windows media player cant open it, it wantes me 2 select it from the web of from a download

lofty (author)2010-08-22

No, one is not negative and the other positive, they alternate, hence being called alternating current.

Blue is called neutral since it is connected to earth.
Brown is live since the voltage is measured relative to neutral/earth and it alternates from positive voltage to the same negative voltage.

Both carry current which changes direction 50 or 60 times /second depending where you live.

If you touch a neutral line, you should be safe since it's connected to earth but I wouldn't go trying it.

brendonl (author)2010-08-21

Well iam just covering the warnings, it can be dangerous if you decide to go around sniffing it all day so better safer than sorry. here is a warning from our good friend Wiki. Safety regulations Due to the strongly oxidizing properties of ozone, ozone is a primary irritant, affecting especially the eyes and respiratory systems and can be hazardous at even low concentrations. The Canadian Center for Occupation Safety and Health reports that: "Even very low concentrations of ozone can be harmful to the upper respiratory tract and the lungs. The severity of injury depends on both by the concentration of ozone and the duration of exposure. Severe and permanent lung injury or death could result from even a very short-term exposure to relatively low concentrations." [35] To protect workers potentially exposed to ozone, OSHA has established a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 0.1 ppm (29 CFR 1910.1000 table Z-1), calculated as an 8 hour time weighted average. Higher concentrations are especially hazardous and NIOSH has established an Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health Limit (IDLH) of 5 ppm.[36] Work environments where ozone is used or where it is likely to be produced should have adequate ventilation and it is prudent to have a monitor for ozone that will alarm if the concentration exceeds the OSHA PEL. Continuous monitors for ozone are available from several suppliers. Elevated ozone exposure can occur on passenger aircraft, with levels depending on altitude and atmospheric turbulence.[37] U.S. FAA regulations set a limit of 250 ppb with a maximum four-hour average of 100 ppb.[38] Some planes are equipped with ozone converters in the ventilation system to reduce passenger exposure.[37]

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Brendon and I live on a hobby farm in sunny Australia. My main interests are Gas Turbines (Jet Engines), High Voltage electricity ... More »
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