Simple But High Voltage Generator

This Electronic Circuit Project of high voltage generator circuit. This high voltage generator was designed  with the aim of testing the electrical break-down protection used on the railways. These  protection measures are used to ensure that  any external metal parts will never be at a  high voltage. If that were about to happen,  a very large current would flow (in the order  of kilo-amps), which causes the protection  to operate, creating a short circuit to ground effectively earthing the metal parts. This hap-pens when, for example, a lightning strike hits  the overhead line (or their supports) on the  railways.

This generator generates a high voltage of  1,000 V, but with an output current that is limited to few milliamps. This permits the electrical breakdown protection to be tested with-out it going into a short circuit state. The circuit uses common parts throughout: a  TL494 pulse-width modulator, several FETs or  bipolar switching transistors, a simple 1.4 VA  mains transformer and a discrete voltage multiplier. P1 is used to set the maximum current  and P2 sets the output voltage.

High Voltage Generator Circuit Diagram:

High Voltage Generator Circuit Diagram

The use of a voltage multiplier has the advantage that the working voltage of the smoothing capacitors can be lower, which makes them easier to obtain. The TL494 was chosen  because it can still operate at a voltage of  about 7 V, which means it can keep on working even when the batteries are nearly empty.  The power is provided by six C-type batteries, which keeps the total weight at a reason-able level.

The 2x4 V secondary of AC power transformer  (Tr1) is used back to front. It does mean that  the 4 V winding has double the rated voltage  across it, but that is acceptable because the  frequency is a lot higher (several kilo-Hertz)  than the 50 Hz (60 Hz) the transformer is  designed for. The final version also includes a display of the  output voltage so that the breakdown volt-age can be read.

From a historical perspective there follows a  bit of background information. In the past a different system was worked  out. Every high-voltage support post has a  protection system, and it isn’t clear when  the protection had operated and went into  a short-circuit state due to a large current  discharge.

Since very large currents were involved, a certain Mr. Van Ark figured out a solution for this.  He used a glass tube filled with a liquid containing a red pigment and a metal ball. When  a large current discharge occurred the metal  ball shot up due to the strong magnetic field,  which caused the pigment to mix with the liquid. This could be seen for a good 24 hours after the event. After a thunder storm it was  easy to see where a discharge current took  place: one only had to walk past the tubes  and have a good look at them.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as  expected. Since it often took a very long  time before a discharge occurred, the pigment settled down too much. When a dis-charge finally did occur the pigment no  longer mixed with the liquid and nothing was  visible. This system was therefore sidelined,  but it found its place in the (railway) history  books as the ‘balls of Van Ark’. Link

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