Make a Plasma Globe Out of a Light Bulb!

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Introduction: Make a Plasma Globe Out of a Light Bulb!

Have you ever been fascinated by a plasma globe? Have you ever wanted to build your own? In this instructable, I will be showing you how to make a plasma globe out of an ordinary light bulb! 

Before we make this project, I have to warn you of the safety issues.
This device outputs high voltages as much as 25,000 volts and can kill you. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ANY PART OR PARTS FOR COMPONENTS OF DIFFERENT VALUES! It is crucial for your safety. I would recommend you do some research on high voltages before attempting this project. Also keep in mind that this is not a beginner level project and you will need to have experience in working with flyback transformers, high voltages, and lethal currents.

You have been warned.


Step 1: The Methods: 1 and 2

There are two methods to making a plasma globe. Both use AC flyback transformers, but they use different drivers. This is important to know because you will be building the driver yourself and you want to choose your method based on a few different factors.

Method 1 uses a 555 timer to switch on and off a mosfet. It uses less components and is easier to build.
Method 2 uses a TL494 chip that can be bought online. This one is more complicated, but it gives you more control over the circuit and even lets you input audio.

I recommend method 1 for beginners because it is easier to get the desired frequency that you want. The frequency is also set to a safe value assuming you use the correct components. This is important because if the frequency is too low, then you will get a nasty shock. At the end of this instructable, I will show 2 videos that tell you how to tune the driver so that the arcs are safe to handle.

Step 2: Method 1: the Parts

In order to make a plasma globe, we need a high frequency AC power supply. We would also like the frequency to be adjustable to get the best arc. We will be making our own flyback transformer. This step can be skipped, however, if you have an AC flyback transformer

For the driver:
- 555 chip
- 22k potentiometer
- 10k resistor
- 56 ohm resistor
- 2.2nf capacitor
- 7809 voltage regulator
- Green LED
- 680 ohm resistor
- N channel power MOSFET (IRFP250, IRFP260, IRFP450, etc.)
- 12-24 volt DC power supply at 3 amps or more (Mine is 12v at 18A)
For the transformer:
- Flyback transformer
- 100 feet of 30 gauge magnet wire
- 1 foot of 22 gauge magnet wire
- Electrical tape
- Teflon tape
For the casing
- Project box
- Various screws and nuts
- Drill bits
-  60 watt clear globe light bulb
 
As you can see, there are various steps to this project. I am guessing that you do not have an AC flyback. Flybacks from modern televisions, computer monitors, and other devices are DC because there is an internal diode that rectifies the flyback's pulse. If you can find a mini portable television, the flyback will most likely be AC and you can use that. But the fun part of this project is winding your own transformer, so I will take you through the steps.

Step 3: Build the Driver.

There is not much to say here. Just make sure you get the connections correct on the 555 chip. Don't worry about hooking up the primary winding yet, we will get to that after we build the transformer.

Step 4: Method 2: the Parts

In order to make a plasma globe, we need a high frequency AC power supply. We would also like the frequency to be adjustable to get the best arc and the clearest sound. We will be making our own flyback transformer.

For the driver:
- TL494 PWM chip
- 10k potentiometer
- 22k potentiometer
- 2.2k resistor
- 10 ohm resistor
- 100nf capacitor
- 10nf capacitor
- 47nf capacitor
- 200uf capacitor
- N channel power MOSFET (IRFP250, IRFP260, IRF540, IRFP450, IRFP064 [what I am using])
- UF4007 or a fast diode
- Male audio jack
- 7812 voltage regulator
- 12-24 volt DC power supply at 3 amps or more
-AC flyback transformer (homemade ones don't work very well)
For the casing
- Project box
- Various screws and nuts
- Drill bits
- 60 watt clear globe light bulb

As you can see, there are many more parts to this method. Another downside is that most of the homemade flybacks I have tried don't work well with this circuit. But if you would still like to try and make a homemade flyback, then continue to the next step

Step 5: Make the Transformer!

Parts:
- Flyback transformer
- 100 feet of 30 gauge magnet wire
- 1 foot of 22 gauge magnet wire
- Electrical tape
- Teflon tape

What is a flyback transformer?

A flyback transformer is a transformer found in CRT monitors and televisions. It is used to create a high voltage and generate an electron beam to project pictures onto the screen. You can easily desolder a flyback out of a television or CRT monitor by using a blowtorch or for our purposes you can crack the circuit board off.

Take a look at the flyback transformer that you have obtained. You want to get the ferrite core out. The ferrite core is the exposed bar of ferrite that connects internally to the transformer To do this, try hitting the ferrite core with a rubber mallet a few times. If that doesn't work, submerge the flyback into hot water and try to loosen the varnish that is holding the core in place. Once you can jiggle the core, try removing the metal staple that holds it together. Once that is done, the two core pieces should fall out of the flyback.

You are halfway done! Well... not really. Next, take a look at how big your core is. The biggest cores usually come from large televisions, but I used the smallest core I had to save space. We are only looking for maybe 10,000 volts.

Next, take an index card and make it into a tube that can fit around the cylindrical side of your core.

I drew a diagram in paint to make it easier to see.

Next, start winding 30 gauge wire around the tube. Start the winding about 1/2 an inch from the edge of the paper, because having a winding too close to the core will cause an arc-over. Wind the wire around the tube, being sure that the windings fit snugly together and to not overlap. Wind until you reach 1/2 an inch from the end of the paper. Then place a piece of electrical tape over the edge of the winding. Wrap the winding with a large amount of teflon tape and cover it with a layer of electrical tape. Next, start a second winding back over the previous one. Wind about 5 less turns, stop, cover in teflon and electrical tape, and start a new layer that winds back over the previous winding. Do this until you run out of space. On the last winding, tape the whole secondary in a lot of electrical tape.

For the primary, wrap 7 turns of the 22 gauge wire around the other side of the core.

You are done!

Step 6: Testing the Transformer and Preparation

Hook up the transformer to the diagram and test it. Take a pencil with a wire taped to it. Hook one end of the wire to one end of the secondary. Then hook up your 12-24 volt power supply to the input of the driver. Flick it on...

Method 1:
If you hear a noise, then it is working. Slowly bring the secondary wires together using the pencil. A purple arc of electricity should jump from one end to the other. If this is so, try adjusting the 22k potentiometer to change the frequency. Try to get a silent thick arc.


If it does not, well... there are several things that can go wrong.

1. Your secondary coil arcs over internally. You must rewind the secondary coil and use more insulation.
2. It works and stops suddenly.
       a. Your mosfet might be dead. Check for a short with a multimeter.
       b. Your 555 chip burnt out. Replace it.
3. Nothing happens when you turn the driver on. You may have misread the schematic. Check all the connections.

Method 2:
If you hear a noise, then it is working. Slowly bring the secondary wires together using the pencil. A purple arc of electricity should jump from one end to the other. If this is so, try adjusting both potentiometers to change the frequency and duty cycle. Try to get a silent thick arc. If you wish, you can plug a music player into the audio jack and test to see if the arc will play music. If all of this happens, then congratulations! You are almost done.

If it does not, well... there are several things that can go wrong.

1. Your secondary coil arcs over internally. You must rewind the secondary coil and use more insulation.
2. It works and stops suddenly. Your mosfet might be dead. Check for a short with a multimeter.
3. Nothing happens when you turn the driver on. You may have misread the schematic. Check all the connections.

Optional Waxing
This part is kind of cool. If you are using crayons for wax, take the paper off of all the crayons. Take an old can, like a tuna fish can, and put the crayons in. Place this over a very low heat on the stove. Melt the wax completely. Next, take a piece of aluminum foil and create a mold for your flyback. Try to make a box that your flyback will fit in. Put the flyback into the mold with the secondary and primary leads sticking upward. Then slowly pour the wax over the flyback until it is barely completely submerged. Jiggle the mold around a bit to let the wax seep into the openings in the flyback. Let that sit overnight to cool.


When you come back the next day, peel off the foil. You will get a block of wax with 4 wires sticking out. This is to help your flyback last longer and prevent arc-overs.

Step 7: Turn It On!

Place the metal base of your light bulb on the high voltage out of the flyback and turn it on!

Please watch this video to help you with tuning and operating your plasma ball:

Please remember that high voltage can be deadly if mishandled. Be careful! And have fun!

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36 Discussions

I am currently attempting this for a school project. I am very familiar with the 555 chip but I have a few questions dealing with the different componets. I was wondering if you had a picture of all the connections made. Thanks!

Many components on this project came from an old pc or tv monitor isn't it? I been trying to find some cool project to recycle components of an old pc monitor and nobody points this way out.

I was hoping to make the rick & morty portal gun with this, but is there a simpiler way to make it and would a tube light work?

I did it, but slightly different: https://youtu.be/Mir6mnAGUlg

Please see "Fire Extinguisher using Voltage Multiplier"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvPe72QZbVQ

Can this circuit still with 110v ?because my ac flyback transformer is from an old TV and it starts to works at 110v

Is it possible to make a fake plasma Bolt out of a lightbulb

Depending on the things you have lying around... 30$....if you have to buy a fly back too..maybe 50...

Hi, thx, your tutorial is great.
Is the teflon tape necessary ? Or can I just use electrical tape between the wraps ?

Here is another diagram, do you think it's ok ?
http://www.firediy.fr/images/articles/plasma-ball/sch.jpg
On this schematics, there is a driver befor the MOSFET (to clean the 555 output signal), is it really useful ?

Why do we have to use the voltage regulator ? I use a 12v supply.

Thank you and sorry for my beginner's english, i will understand your answer, but it's not easy to express myself clearly.

1 reply

You need to use the regulator because when you cut the current from the fly back a phenomenon called self inductance kicks in...which creates higher voltage and amperage in the circuit, it is there for a really-really short time...but it still can kill your mosfet and 555 timer, glad I could help!!!

Cuz you can't...it needs high frequency DC input to work...

Hi, I was wondering if there was any way that I could use a flyback by itself without modifying it. Thanks!

1 reply

There is a possibility... But you still have to hook it up to something... Buy an energy saving light bulb( CFL bulb) and cut it open and get out the circuit board solder a wall plug to the red and black wire and connect the flybacks primary coils pins to the two closest ( parallel with the red and black cables) pins on the board :/ that's the easyest way to use the flybacks high voltage capacity....

0
user
adim13

2 years ago

can i use standard DC rectifier transformer, instead swicthing powersupply or acid battery..?

and in method 2, i saw small heat sink in the board, what component in there? what i know in method2 only mosfet that use a heatsink and its outside of the board

can you plz show ciruitry ...cz i cant see it very well...

plz i will be very thankfull to you

1 reply

Thank you HaykD and clevelandstorms. Love you guys
MOSFET IFRP250 is not available in my city so i had to order it from online store. Once i get that item i will update on my success.
Thanks once again guys.

@ clevelandstorms:
Please increase the size of 2nd method diagram. TL494 is available in my city so i'll try that too.

My transformer has following rating 12v 5A (12-6-0-6-12). How much volt i can get from it?