Plasma Arc Vortex Speaker




Introduction: Plasma Arc Vortex Speaker

About: Electromechanical Engineer, Product Designer, Maker. I love to make prototypes and teach others in the process. I graduated from UCF and spent two years working at NASA.

In this instructable, I will show you how to make your very own plasma arc vortex speaker! I set out to make the loudest plasma arc speaker with the fewest components. You can choose to make the vortex speaker or just a regular plasma arc speaker using this instructable. The regular plasma arc speaker is much louder, but the vortex looks so awesome so it's up to you!

After a few improvements, it already sounds much better here:

Warning! This is not a beginner project and has the potential to kill you if you are not careful. Please do not attempt this instructable unless you are aware of all the risks involved and have experience with high power, high voltage applications. The speaker can also generate dangerous levels of ozone if left on for too long in confined spaces. Use in a large room and don't use it for long periods of time.

Step 1: What You Will Need

1. 12V 50A Power Supply:

2. Flyback Transformer:

3. Ceramic ring magnet:

4. Stainless steel electrodes(or tungsten). You can make them from rods found in printers. The larger, the better because small electrodes will melt.

5. Copper Grounding lugs:

6. Block of wood to mount the grounding lugs.

7. At least 2 Logic Level MOSFETs- The STP40NF10L I used are great because they have a super low Rdson at 5V and even lower at higher voltages.

8. Heatsinks - Preferrably with a fan to further cool them down.

9. Heatsink compound:

10. NE555 Timer - Be wary of using other 555 variants as some are not capable of driving the MOSFETS directly.

11. 3.5mm audio cable:

12. Other components shown in the schematic.

Step 2: Schematic and Tuning

As noted in the schematic, the power supply is very important here. I suggest using the same 12V 50A power supply that I used in order to have a very reliable supply and the ability to upgrade your speaker if needed. Yes, a 12V 12A power supply will work but it will not be nearly as loud.

The capacitor labeled 10nF in my schematic will need to be changed to suit you're flyback transformer's resonant frequency along with the two potentiometers. If you wire yours up exactly as I have do, be sure not to turn the potentiometers to either of their extremes. This is because most potentiometers are poor made and turning all the way clockwise or all the way counterclockwise can result in opening up the circuit at that point. To avoid this limitation, just add a small resistor in series with each potentiometer.

Using the two MOSFETs in parallel is a great way to keep the temperature of the MOSFETs from getting too hot. You can even add a third MOSFET in parallel to handle even more power without overheating. The max temperature my MOSFETs get are about 70C which is just fine seeing the max that can handle is 175C.

The RC snubber found across the primary is a great way to dissipate the flyback transformer's inductive spike when the MOSFETs turn off as well as the ringing associated with the leakage inductance of the flyback transformer. The capacitor you use needs to be able to handle the current you are operating at. The resistor should also be free of an inductive components. Be sure to measure the inductance of the resistor you use to make sure is isn't inductive. Carbon film resistors are ideal and you can always use small resistors in series to evenly distribute the power dissipation.

Start with 8 windings on your transformer and monitor your MOSFETs temperatures. Remove one winding at a time to increase the power.

You can add an audio jack or hard wire in an audio cable for your audio input.

Schematic Updated: 4/11/16 2:24 P.M.

Step 3: Plasma Arc Speaker

The problem with the vortex speakers is that because the arc is rotating, it causes a fluttering sound that can't be silenced. Using this setup as a regular plasma arc speaker is really loud and clear. Enjoy!



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    18 Discussions


    I just finished making this circuit and have a problem with my 555 timer burning out. I'm not sure if it because of my snubber circuit or something else.

    Thanks, Andrew


    1 year ago

    First off, that looks awesome. I knew these things could produce sound, but the vortex is a novel idea to me.

    By no stretch of the imagination am I an expert, or qualified to make suggestions, but if I may be so bold- if the electrode doesn't have to be the same thickness, could you not hide a slightly smaller rod inside it up until the point where it arcs around the magnet, and have that rod arc singularly to a separate cathode (?) hidden behind the ring magnet to use as the primary sound producer, and inhibit the sound producing qualities of the vortex? In which case you would have the clearer sound of the regular arc (which would be hidden behind the sheer awesomeness of the vortex).

    1 reply

    A thinner electrode would melt. There is no way around the fluttering sound. The fluttering is caused by the rotation of the arc interacting with the air. Stationary arcs don't sound have the fluttering and sound much better but don't look quite as cool. Check out my other videos to see an idle plasma arc like this one:

    I need to identify the pin for the ground of
    the secondary and the two pins of the primary for the RCA 244229 Flyback Transformer
    1536119A, Original RCA equipment for this project - does anybody have this pin diagram?

    What ratio of primary-secondary coils is required?

    Do you need the flyback transformer driver that comes with the flyback?

    1 reply

    I'm sorry, I left that out. I just updated the schematic and verified a few of my other values.

    Stayin' alive! The right song for this device xD


    2 years ago

    Very nice.

    How about using a car battery for power supply?

    they can easily deliver 50A at 12V.

    4 replies

    I just updated the schematic after verifying a few of my values.

    The PDF above. I just updated it again.

    You can try but I can't guarantee it will sound like mine.