Measuring High Voltage in Millimeters (and Other HV Probe Tricks)

I work a lot with high voltages and others frequently replicate my projects, so I often get asked “What voltage is needed?”. That means I need to be able to measure high voltages. Here’s how I do it using a Fluke high voltage probe as well as my own homemade probe. And what if you don’t have a probe? I have a solution for that too.

How Long Is Your Spark?

The simplest way to measure high voltage is by spark length. If your circuit has a spark gap then when a spark occurs, that’s a short-circuit, dumping all your built up charge. When your spark gap is at the maximum distance at which you get a spark then just before the spark happens is when you have your maximum voltage. During the spark the voltage rapidly goes to zero and depending on your circuit it may start building up again. The voltage before the spark occurred is related to the spark length, which is also the spark gap width.

The oscilloscope photo below shows this changing voltage. This method is good for a rough estimate. I’ll talk about doing more precise measurements when I talk about high voltage probes further down.

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Collin’s Lab is Coming Back

Collin

We would like to share a bit of good news; Collin’s Lab is back on the airwaves of the Internet. If you didn’t know, [Collin Cunningham] previously created excellent short videos, sometimes entertainingly tongue-in-cheek, for Make Magazines on the subjects of electronic components and fundamental electronics. In 2012 he was hired at Adafruit as a Creative Engineer to help with software development and video production.

Going forward Collin’s Lab videos will be a regular feature on Adafruit’s Blog and their YouTube channel. We’re sure there is going to be tons of entertaining learning from Collin with his unique video production skills and presentation delivery.

This first release of Collin’s Lab on Adafruit is a primer review covering fundamental multimeter functionality and measurements. Not much here for the medium to advanced electronics hacker but for the beginner this is an excellent and quick way to learn the basics on using your multimeter.

If you want to checkout Collin’s older video productions you can find them on his Narbotic Instruments site under – “Make Presents” and “Collin’s Lab” or watch them all with this convenient playlist. Just after the break you can also watch his latest edition of Collin’s Lab.

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