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How difficult is it to Increase the intensity of a plasma ball? Answered

I just bought a cheap USB (5v) plasma ball.

Quite frankly, the intensity of the streams is pathetic. You can barely see it when the lights are on.

I wanted to use it for a decorative project, but need to increase the intensity of the streams.

Would increasing the voltage (say from 5v to 12v) work? Or is it more complicated than that?

I can do basic electronics, but mostly just simple stuff following circuit diagrams etc.

4 Replies

glitvjaks (author)2015-04-07

I realize that this is an ancient thread, but here's my 2 cents anyways.

I have a plasma lamp that takes 12v DC. I've hooked it up to a variable voltage power supply and tested it at 15 and 18 volts. It didn't burn, break, release the magic smoke or anything - it just got brighter with increased voltage.

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master key (author)2012-01-02

i think usb 2.0 provides 500 MA of power

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shobley (author)2010-11-04

You could increase either the voltage or the current.

In a traditional Tesla coil design increasing the input current has a dramatic effect on the length and brightness of the streamers.

There could be current limitiing going on with

(a) The usb port
(b) More likely a limitiing resistor somewhere in the circuit.

This will involve cracking the unit open and having a good old poke around with a meter and scope. Placing a variable resistor in place of the current limiting resistor would be a good way to determine the maximum value. (This is why I always buy 2 of anything - one to test to destruction, and the other for best)

However - it's the current that'll kill you, not the voltage - so I would be careful you don't start pushing the plasma ball into the "dangerous" category.

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Re-design (author)2009-12-03

If you're willing to sacrifice your plasma ball you could try hooking it to a variable d/c source and testing.

Whether or not it works depends on how it was designed. If the mfg. just took some 9 or 12 volt globes and figured out that they would still barely work on 5 volts and did nothing else you might be in luck.

If they designed a unit to work on 5 volts then increasing the voltage will bring an end to the operation.

Your other option is to gut the circuit and build a stronger, better 12 volt system.  THe hare part of the globe is the globe and electrode itself and making it look good.  The circuit itself is fairly simple.

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