An Easy Way To Power Flyback Transformers


Let’s be honest. Playing with high voltage is awesome. Dangerous, but awesome — well, as long as you handle it properly. Flyback transformers are a great way to make a nice big electrical arc, but powering them isn’t that easy — or is it?

First off, for those that may not know, a flyback transformer is the type of transformer most commonly found in old TVs and CRT monitors. They typically can put out anywhere from 10kV to 50kV — the problem is, they aren’t that easy to power. Common methods include using a transistor style driver, or zero voltage switching (ZVS) — which is how [Skyy] cooked some s’mores at 50,000V.

As it turns out there’s another much easier and straight forward method. All you need is a fluorescent light ballast. Use the output on the ballast as the input on the primary winding of the flyback transformer — which can be found using a multimeter, just find the highest resistance between pins to identify it. Now because you’re working with such high voltages, you may want to insulate the flyback transformer by submerging it in mineral oil as to not short it out. That’s it.

Now it’s time to make some sparks.

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Homebuilt 30kV High Voltage Power Supply

rimstarorg 30kV power supply

If you have need for 30,000 volts to launch your ionocraft (lifter) or power other DIY projects then shuttle over to RimstarOrg’s YouTube channel and checkout [Steven Dufresne’s] homebuilt 30kV power supply. The construction details that [Steven] includes in his videos are always amazing, especially for visual learners. If you prefer text over video he was kind enough to share a schematic and full write up at

The power supply can be configured for 1.2kV – 4.6kV or 4kV – 30kV at the output while requiring 0-24V DC at the input. In the video [Steven] tries two power supplies. His homemade DC bench power supply at 8V and 2.5A and also a laptop power supply rated at 20V 1.8A DC. A couple of common 2N3055 power transistors, proper wattage resistors, a flyback transformer and a high voltage tripler is about all you’ll need to scrounge up. The flyback transformer can be found in old CRT type televisions, and he does go into details on rewinding the primary for this build. The high voltage tripler [Steven] references might be a bit harder to source. He lists a few alternates for the tripler but even those are scarce: NTE 521, Siemens 76-1 N094, 1895-641-045. There are lots of voltage multiplier details in the wild, but keep in mind this tripler needs to operate up to 30kV.

Join us after the break to watch the video and for a little advice from Mr. Safety.

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High Voltage: Controlling a flyback transformer with an Arduino

If you’d like to build a Jacob’s ladder, an ignition system for a flamethrower, or for some ungodly reason you need 15 kilovolts for a prop replica or cosplay build, this one is for you. It’s an easy to build high voltage power supply that interfaces with an Arduino.

After harvesting a flyback from the power board of a CRT, [Andrew Moser] added a new primary coil to the transformer. This boosts 12 volts that can be easily controlled by an Arduino to something that will arc an inch and a half. The next step building the flyback driver. [Andrew] used a MOSFET and MOSFET driver for this circuit (although he says this guy works without the driver). After that, all that’s left to do is write some software and test it out.

Of course this comes with the boilerplate warning, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might die.” That being said, if you ever wanted to test out an Arduino’s resistance to EMP, this is the project for you. Check out the flyback powering a Jacob’s ladder after the break.

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More high voltage experimentation with a flyback inverter

[Electorials] actually makes working with a flyback inverter sound rather easy. This comes hot on the heals of the huge high voltage collection we saw the other day, but slows way down in the presentation of information. This makes the project very approachable for the newbie, especially considering that the majority of the testing is done with low voltages.

He’s using a flyback transform for this project, which can be pulled from an old CRT monitor. Once you have one in hand, all that’s required to figure out how to use it is a voltometer, a 9V battery, a MOSFET (also salvaged in this case), and miscellaneous components. Once he establishes what each external connection does electronically, [Electorials] builds his circuit on a breadboard, then uses it to create plasma in the bulb above as well as to light up a CCFL.

Ionocraft aka Lifters

It’s hard to believe that in five years we haven’t covered lifters before. This realization was sparked when [Tyler] tipped us off about a lifter project demonstrated at the Kansas City hackerspace called CCCKC.

Lifters, the casual name for ionocraft, fly without combustion or moving parts. We’re not going to tackle the particulars of what makes flight possible, but high voltage is required to feed the phenomenon that provides the lift. One of the first comments when we asked what to do with old CRT monitors was to use them for lifters. The flyback transformer puts out plenty of voltage if you can tap into it without killing yourself (no, seriously, that’s an issue).

This is the method that the CCCKC folks used. Take a peek at the video after the break. If you’re thirsting for more fun with lifters, stop by the Lifter Project.

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