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In this Instructable you will learn how to make a High Voltage High Frequency power supply in 5 minutes and for less than $20.

All you need is a compact fluorescent light (CFL) and a flyback transformer.

Flyback transformers are found in TVs and CRT monitors. They make the high voltage, high frequency current necessary to trace the electron beam across the screen. They are small and compact, and you can take them out from an old computer monitor or TV.

CFLs are very popular high efficiency fluorescent lights. They are similar to their ancestor the fluorescent light tubes but use electronic ballasts instead of the big and heavy ballasts in the old technology.

The electronic ballast works by generating high frequency currents that are fed to a tiny high frequency transformer that boost the voltage and run the fluorescent tube. It is the high frequency that makes the assembly compact.

The electronic ballast generates less than 1000 volts. But by replacing the fluorescent bulb of the CFL with a flyback transformer, spectacular voltages can be achieved.

Please visit my latest instructable, how to build an 2.4Ghz yagi antenna for long range WiFi or surveillance cameras:

Step 1: Some Info on CFLs

CFLs can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Generally the bigger the wattage the larger the voltage output. For this Instructable I got a 65 Watts light bulb.

Most CFLs have a similar circuit topology. All of them have 4 wires coming out of them. The wires are in pairs, and each pair connects to a filament inside the light bulb.

The CFLs I came across have the high voltage on the outer wires. You only need to connect the outer wires to the primary coil of the flyback transformer.

You will find a comprehensive description of CFL circuits on this page

Step 2: Some Info About Flyback Transformers

Flyback transformers come in all different shapes and sizes. Pick a big one.

The challenge with the flyback transformer is to find 3 pins out of 10 to 20 pins. One pin will be the high voltage ground the other two pins will be that of the primary coil that will connect to the CFL's electronic board.

If you can get the schematic of the flyback transformer that will save you time. However you can figure out the pins by following the instructions here.

Danger - if you are going to get the flyback from a TV or CRT you need to discharge it. It can hold a dangerous charge even days after the TV or CRT is turned off (see picture for details).

Step 3: The Finished Setup

This is how the finished high voltage supply looks like.

Remember, this is a DC supply. The output from the thick wire is positive. In TVs and CRTs this high voltage output drives the negative electrons from the filament to the screen.

If you need AC high voltage, you have to remove the built-in diode or find an old flyback transformer that does not have a built-in diode.

Step 4: Troubleshooting

The first time I build the circuit, it worked immediately. I used a 26 watt CFL.

Then I decided to get a bigger CFL and I build it exactly like the first circuit. It didn't work. I was disappointed. I thought that the CFL electronics were shot.

But when I reconnected the fluorescent tube to the four wires, the CFL worked again. I realized that this type of CFL circuit needed to "sense" the filaments in order to operate. Remember, I was only using the outer wires and leaving the two inner wires alone.

So I put a resistor across the outer wire and the inner wire. The circuit worked! But within seconds the resistor was in flames.

So I decided to use a capacitor in place of resistor. The capacitor allows AC currents but blocks DC while a resistor allow both AC and DC currents to flow through it. Also a capacitor does not heat up because it provides a low resistance path for AC currents.

The capacitor worked great! The arcs produced were very big and thick.

So in summary there two things that can go wrong:

1. You wired it wrong, either on the CFL side or the flyback side.
2. The CFL electronics needs to sense the filament and you can use a capacitor as a substitute.

Use a high voltage rated capacitor. Mine was 400V and I got it from another CFL circuit.

While troubleshooting, be very careful, you are dealing with very high voltages and high currents.

When soldering, disconnect the circuit from the power outlet.

Step 5: Disclaimer

The circuits in this Instructable use very high voltages and currents.

These currents and voltages are deadly! You can easily hurt yourself, as well. Build this circuit at your own risk.

This type of high frequency high voltage current is used in surgical cauterizers. So if you get shocked you will burn yourself and cut your flesh. There is also a considerable fire hazard from the circuit.

Use the Nikolai Tesla's safety techniques when working with high voltages:

1. Only use one hand (put your other hand on your lap or pocket)
2. Wear insulating shoes
3. Use a dead man stick or insulated pliers when touching or manipulating the circuit.
4. Use a power bar with a thermal fuse rather than sticking the circuit directly in the socket. This will limit the current that will go through your body.
5. When soldering, disconnect the circuit from the power outlet.

Generally, in electricity it is the the current that kills. if the currents are low there is little danger even if the voltages are very high (think of Tesla holding the his Tesla coil).

This circuit has high currents which makes it considerably dangerous.

a 65W CFL can deliver 65mA easily (65W/1000v).

And if you look at the picture below, at greater than 50mA the little guy is dead.

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960 Discussions

I used 32w CFL circuit, i mounted Heat sinks to transistors and i connected a ceramic capacitor 1nF 5Kv in parralel with primary coil and I powered up,first i was scared : 30 cm Sparks! awesome, I used my Fluke high voltage probe and a 10 Mohm impedance analog multimmeter and i measured 90 KV.

2 replies

30mm you mean, right? (1.5MV sounds a bit too high)... Still impressive.

Also i changed the full bridge electrolitic capacitor with a 100uF 400V electrolytic cap from TV for more power!

The mistake was that I connect the transformer to the extreme conclusions from four to CFLs. I measured the resistance of the filaments of CFL lamps. It turned out each strand has a resistance of 3 ohms. Thus, the total resistance of the two strands was 6 th. I have created a semblance of snubber 6 ohm resistance + series capacitor 3.8n 1200 volt and transformer connected. Since the capacitor on the board already exists, between two close-pin soldered resistance 6 ohms, and the transformer took another couple of conclusions. If the CFL 26 watts of power, the arc starts at a distance of 4 centimeters and is very noisy, blue and red and thick. If the CFL power 11 watts, the arc starts at a distance of 2 centimeters. If the distance is increased to 4 centimeters, there is a glow discharge and begins to secrete large amounts of ozone

1 reply

Ok i builded it,and i used a resonant capacitor but it consumes a lot of power and full bridge capacior just exploded,i don't recommend to use capacitor from CFL circuit,try to use a lower capacitance capacitor and install a safety spark gap to discharge HV ripple to avoid damaging the oscilator.

this circuit could be run in reverse? i mean, if you input high voltage in the flyback you get low voltage on the CFL inputs?

Hi thanks for the instructable i tried it was awesome i got 2.3cm sparks
but it also gave off a weird smell i thought the transistor burned off
but it didnt after research i found out it was OZONE. Is the ozone
produced by this circuit dangeros

1 reply

yes, my friend, ozone is very dangerous, ..but it small quantities is safe ... ..but I don't recommend you to "sniff"it directly from the assembly anyway .. do it in the room with opened window to make sure the air is circulating in the room ....there really IS something as ozone poisoning ..but you're ok , don't worry

check this out ppl... look how does 3.5 MILLION VOLTS look like .... beautiful

Hi, can I know the value of the capacitor you used in place of the filaments...?

Thanx in advance..

Greetings! I have nothing works. Ballast CFL - rate transformer scheme. It is unclear where the soldered capacitor - parallel with the primary winding, or sequentially. If sequentially, the same nothing works. I do not know why not start CFL ballast?

For a flat aluminum glass capacitor I am using this as a power supply simple and safe to use.

From e-bay just for 5-10 dollars you can get pulsed high voltage generators. Mine operates DC from 3.6 volts DC to 20,000 volts 50 mA. I know the Danger. I have worked with voltages like this for lasers used at school.

You can get some that operates up to 1 million volts!!!

Please see "Fire Extinguisher using Voltage Multiplier"

Can i use external electronic ballast ???

So by 65W bulb you mean it takes 65w from the grid and makes it into like idk 200W or does it take like 11W and makes it into 65W
I hope you understand what i mean
Because when you buy a bulb its says like 11W (shines 100W) or what ever

1 reply

What they mean by 11W shines 100W is that the florescent bulb only consumes 11 watts of power but is as bright as a 100 watt incandescent bulb. They put that on there because people were used to how bright a 60W or 75W or 100W incandescent bulb was and didn't know which florecent bulb to get.

Also, power is mesured in watts and power is concerved so a bulb could not take in 65W from the grid and turn it into 100W because it would have to be making power somehow. What it can do however, is convert the 120 volts from the outlet into 600 volts but to achieve this the current drops so power is conserved.

can anybody help me to get this pdf. i can't have pro account.