Arduino Kirlian Device




Introduction: Arduino Kirlian Device

I've been working for my thesis with Kirlian photography, researching and playing around with every single idea I found on the internet. Most of them required manual switching, 555 circuits or expensive pulse modulators, so I decided to try my own version and design a circuit driven by the Arduino. This schematic can be used in many projects that need pulse modulators and high voltage, be creative and enjoy!


Warning: This is a high voltage project. If you have no experience in this field please don't underestimate it. If you have heart problems, health issues or are pregnant don't try it!!!
I am not responsible for any incident or accident that might happen while you build this circuit. Please note that you should not have any problems if you follow this simple rules, but always be careful.

VIP Safety Rules:

-Wear rubber gloves
-Work with the adapter and battery unplugged at all time.

Don't place your finger on the discharge plate unless you are:

-Insulated from ground (sneakers or any insulating material)
-Tested the device on a ground object

Step 1: Main Schematic

This is the basic schematic, please take a second to understand it before we proceed. I designed it in illustrator because I am a visual designer and can't stand the way schematics look! hopefully you'll understand it better too.

To introduce yourself into the Kirlian concept you just need to know that it's a high voltage low current circuit that releases a discharge to an object or subject when this one is connected to ground. In this case there is a main input that gets released to a transformer and then converted into high voltage. Because I took the switch that controlled this input and the capacitors that retained them out of the schematic we will replace that part with a relay (let's say is a switch that can open and close depending on what we tell it).

A  basic Kirlian circuit needs to work with an automatic pulse modulator that it's constantly feeding and releasing electrical juice. As humans we don't have the ability to turn a switch on an off that fast, so here is were the Arduino comes; It feeds the relay with a controlled pulse telling it to open or close whenever we want.

Step 2: What Do You Need?

- (1) Arduino board
- (1) 9V battery (regulated to 5V if used to power Arduino)
- (1) Wall adapter (12VDC)
- (1) Relay (Solid state)
- (1) Auto ignition coil (6V/12V)
- Wires (regular and HV)
-Transparent electrode
    - (1) Tin Oxide coated glass (Imagesco sells them)
    - (1) Cooper clad
- (1) Breadboard

If you want to set the Arduino board in the circuit like I did, you can go to the ITP site from NYU. They have a great tutorial on how to do this.

The wall adapter that I used gave me an input of 12VDC/120 AC with a current of 1 amp.
You should choose the capacity of the wall adapter depending on the size of your transformer. If you have a 6V transformer you would be Ok with a smaller input. Remember the amperage its what really needs to be carefully chosen. Don't try it with more than 1 Amp you could get shockedand DIE!!.

The relay also depends on your circuit, but it needs to be a SSR because you need it to close and open fast enough to output a spark. One important thing you need to know is that it should be able to handle 5V from one side (for the Arduino) and then from the other the input from your wall adapter, in  my case 12V.

Step 3: Program the Arduino

The only code you need is the Digital write blinking LED from the library.

Tip: To test inputs, its a good idea to use LED's.

1) copy and paste this code into the Arduino program:

(Code from

/*  Blink Turns on an LED on for one second, then off for one second, repeatedly. The circuit: * LED connected from digital pin 13 to ground. * Note: On most Arduino boards, there is already an LED on the board connected to pin 13, so you don't need any extra components for this example. Created 1 June 2005 By David Cuartielles based on an orginal by H. Barragan for the Wiring i/o board */
int ledPin =  13;    // LED connected to digital pin 13
// The setup() method runs once, when the sketch starts
voidsetup()   {                
   // initialize the digital pin as an output:pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);     
// the loop() method runs over and over again,// as long as the Arduino has power
   digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);   // set the LED ondelay(1000);                  // wait for a seconddigitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);    // set the LED offdelay(1000);                  // wait for a second

2)Plug in your Arduino and transfer the code
3)Place an LED on pin 13 if you are using the board or on the right input pin from the
Atmega chip if you are using the breadboard setup.
4)Test it! if it works, you are good to go.

Now, here is the great thing about controlling the pulse of the circuit with the
Arduino. You can modify the delay time so that you have slower or faster pulses, and with this
practically control your whole experiment. If you wish to add other things like lights, sound,
or anything else you just go to the code and modify it.

I suggest you plug the Arduino from an independent power source (it needs to be 5V).

Step 4: Set Up Kirlian Circuit

On the breadboard we will set up the relay and connections to the discharge plate.The whole idea is to control two different voltages (5V and 12 V) so we want to "divide" the breadboard in two. Meaning that the side were the transformer is connected doesn't touch the side were the Arduino gets connected.

Placing the relay vertical connect the side with the closer legs to power (Input pin or pin 13) and ground from the Arduino.

Relay's PIN 1: Ground
Relay's PIN 2: power
Relay's PIN 3: Transformer +
Relay's PIN 4: Wall adapter +

Wall adapter's ground and transformer's ground share the same ground side.

Tip: to test connections place an LED with the correspondent resistor (R=V/I) in PIN 3 from the relay and then to ground, plug in the Arduino and the wall adapter. If everything is working you should be able to see the LED from the transformer side blinking.

Step 5: Discharge Plate

You can use any conductive material for this part, depending on the project you are building. I used the standard discharge plate described on Kirlian photography tutorials.

Supposing you want to use the discharge plate described on the Kirlian photography tutorial, just take the HV wire that comes from the middle of the Auto transformer and solder it to the cooper clad of the plate. This is the wire that gives the controlled HV input to whatever we place on the plate.
Remember to unplug everything before making any connections and also be careful not to touch the cooper clad because you will get shocked hard and it's not nice! been there :(

Step 6: Test It!

You are all set!!

Connect a wire from the 12V ground side of the breadboard and extend it all the way to the discharge plate. If you place the tip near the surface of the glass (1/8 of an inch approx or less) you will see a jumping HV spark. Once you get that you are all set!

Some options:
1) Connect that same ground wire to an object and place the object on the plate. Sparks should be constantly there depending on your pulse.
2) Carefully at your own risk and only if you are grounded!!! you can place your finger and see a coronal discharge around it.
3) if you want to take pictures with a digital camera:
Place the camera in a tripod and select the fastest option of aperture. Focus the subject manually and turn off the light. Now take the picture and after a few seconds when the shutter closes you should see the image.

If you want to see my thesis and the progress of this prototypes please visit my site

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    13 years ago on Introduction

    Using the Arduino for this is a bit overkill (I'm sure you wouldn't disagree), but the build is interesting. Do you have any more Kirlian-photographs to show?



    Reply 6 years ago

    I think the Arduino or similar micro controllers are perfect for this kind of application, if you intend to add a little automation and finesse to the program. I'd say have the controller also switch power on and off to a light source (make the room dark during filming and light when done) and start a run timer for 30 seconds or so, after a brief delay, once triggered, that would stop the process once the time limit is reached.

    Then program a few safeties and an emergency stop tied to a conveniently located button and, viola, you have a pretty slick party favor and maybe a little side hustle at craft fairs and the like.

    All easily written into the existing code shown in this build.

    Just need to add some caps in parallel with the primary and then precisely choose my frequency and this thing can really produce!


    Reply 6 years ago

    This whole thing can also fit into a lunchbox (minus the supply), which is a major plus, and really opens up a lot of opportunities for experimentation due to this portability.

    Honestly, with a bit of tuning and refining, I think you could sell these things for a profit. Let people either purchase or produce their own clear discharge plates or just use them the old fashioned way with photo film and no clear discharge plate, and let your hobby make you some money.

    Denise Flasz
    Denise Flasz

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Lemonie,
    The process of coming up for this solution was quite long. I did and tested many prototypes to get to this point, so that I could say was an overkill. Building the circuit with the arduino was quite fast and you get much more out of the circuit than by using a regular pulse modulator. As I mentioned to Berserk87, my purpose is to build an interactive sculpture with this schematic so it was really worth it. I will post more picts soon! but not Kirlian ones, I will post from the "Forbidden flower" :)
    Thanks for your interest, and let me know if you have any questions!


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the details, I'm interested to see more of what it will do.



    6 years ago

    So this thing seems to work at about any speed and at voltages as low as about 6.5VDC, but only at higher amperages. Those of you familiar with Ohm's Law already knew that.

    I had a steady machinegun rate at "delay(10);" and could not go lower because I blew my SSR with nearly 10A at 24VDC at that speed while running it through my homemade discharge plate comprised of two silicone sealed panes of glass filled woth water and a copper wire running along the inside perimeter within the water sealed between the two panes. The plate works great, actually. I just need a SSR rated at 10A or higher this time.

    Anyway, this works great and a little programming to add the use of switches or buttons to quickly change delay settings or shut off the pulses without having to re-flash the controller or pull the USB makes this an ideal adaptation of this logic for Kirlian Photography.

    I have found that having a smaller discharge plate makes for brighter coronas without needing to increase the output voltage to the plate.

    Are you still using this setup or have you moved on?

    Also, have you tried driving that ignition coil using a micro controller and mosfets in h-bridge configuration? H-bridge in some kind of oscillating mode, but I forget the official name for it, just now. Anyway, it is supposed to be a circuit for changing DC motor direction and is said to be better at driving coils for bigger potentials.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I am interested in knowing more about the possible applications of this device to medical diagnostics. I am the naturopathic/ water consultant advisor to an allopathic medical director who is very much interested in purchasing/creating a device for Kirlian photography and aural diagnostics.What are the most likely costs to be incured in (a) purchasing a camera/device, or(b) building one such?


    11 years ago on Step 6

    You cant be grounded !!
    If you are then you can get shocked as current will pass from HV (glass) through your body to ground. Please edit this step for the people's safety.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    In the beginning you say that you need to be grounded as a safety rule, if you were grounded, it would kill you.  What i think you meant to say was insulated from the ground, this way your body can reach the same voltage as the discharge plate, yet still stay safe as there is no current passing through you.  You might want to revise this because if someone just skimmed through that part they could seriously injure themselves. 

    Denise Flasz
    Denise Flasz

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Slick36,
    You are totally right, I did mean that. My appologies eveyrone, I am editing it right now.

    Denise Flasz
    Denise Flasz

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Berserk87,
    you could see this project as a customizable controlled HV device. For example, I designed it for other purposes besides a Kirlian device. I will use it as the main input for an interactive sculpture in the future. I also made a sculpture from wire in the shape of a flower, that when you touch you can see a spark jumping from your finger to it. There are many things you can do with this schematic, it's up to you what you want to use it for. Usually on the internet you might find people using 555 chips or pulse modulators that are really expensive (some $90) so I decided to use my arduino and have the ability to control also other things such as audio, light and other discharge surfaces all at the same time.
    Let me know if you have other questions,


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Im still confused :S

    i'll guess ill have to wait and see the final result.