High Tech Pancake Tesla Coil Brings The Lightning

For several years now we’ve been following [Jay Bowles] as he brings high-voltage down to Earth on his Plasma Channel YouTube channel. From spark gaps made of bits of copper pipe to automotive ignition coils driven by the stalwart 555 timer, he’s got a real knack for keeping his builds affordable and approachable. But once in a while you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone, and although the dedicated DIY’er could still replicate the solid state “pancake” Tesla coil he documents in his latest video, we’d say this one is better left for the professionals.

The story starts about nine months ago, when [Jay] was approached by fellow YouTuber [LabCoatz] to collaborate on a PCB design for a solid state Tesla coil (SSTC). Rather than a traditional spark gap, a SSTC uses insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) triggered by an oscillator, which is not only more efficient but allows for fine control of the primary coil. The idea was to develop an AC-powered coil that was compact, easy to repair, and could be controlled with just a couple dials on the front panel. The device would also make use of an antenna feedback system that would pick up the resonant frequency of the secondary coil and automatically adjust the IGBT drive to match.

Being considerably more complex than many of the previous builds featured on Plasma Channel, it took some time to work out all the kinks. In fact, the majority of the video is [Jay] walking the viewer through the various failure modes that he ran into while developing the SSTC. Even for somebody with his experience in high-voltage, there were a number of headscratchers that had to be solved.

For example, the first version of the design used metal bolts to attach the primary and secondary coils, until he realized that was leading to capacitive coupling and replaced them with acrylic blocks instead. If his previous videos surprised you by showing how easy it could be to experiment with high-voltages, this one is a reminder that it’s not always so simple.

But in the end [Jay] does get everything sorted out, and the results are nothing short of spectacular. Even on the lower power levels it throws some impressive sparks, but when cranked up to max, it offers some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen so far from Plasma Channel. It was a lot of work, but it certainly wasn’t wasted effort.

Fascinated by the results, but not quite ready to jump into the deep end? This affordable and easy to build high-voltage generator featured on Plasma Channel back in 2020 is a great way to get started. If you still need more inspiration, check out the fantastic presentation [Jay] gave during the 2021 Remoticon.

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A Builders Guide For The Perfect Solid-State Tesla Coil

[Zach Armstrong] presents for your viewing pleasure a simple guide to building a solid-state Tesla coil. The design is based around a self-resonant setup using the UCC2742x gate driver IC, which is used in a transformer-coupled full-wave configuration for delivering maximum power from the line input. The self-resonant bit is implemented by using a small antenna nearby the coil to pick up the EM field, and by suitably clamping and squaring it up, it is fed back into the gate driver to close the feedback loop. Such a setup within reason allows the circuit to oscillate with a wide range of Tesla coil designs, and track any small changes, minimizing the need for fiddly manual tuning that is the usual path you follow building these things.

Since the primary is driven with IGBTs, bigger is better. If the coil is too small, the resonant frequency would surpass the recommended 400 kHz, which could damage the IGBTs since they can’t switch much faster with the relatively large currents needed. An important part of designing Tesla coil driver circuits is matching the primary coil to the driver. You could do worse than checkout JavaTC to help with the calculations, as this is an area of the design where mistakes often result in destructive failure. The secondary coil design is simpler, where a little experimentation is needed to get the appropriate degree of coil coupling. Too much coupling is unhelpful, as you’ll just get breakdown between the two sides. Too little coupling and efficiency is compromised. This is why you often see a Tesla coil with a sizeable gap between the primary and secondary coils. There is a science to this magic!

Pretty Lithium Carbonate plasma

A 555 timer wired to produce adjustable pulses feeds into the driver enable to allow easily changing the discharge properties. This enables it to produce discharges that look a bit like a Van De Graaff discharge at one extreme, and produce some lovely plasma ‘fire’ at the other.

We’ve covered Tesla coils from many angles over the years, recently this plasma tweeter made sweet sounds, and somehow we missed an insanely dangerous Tesla build by [StyroPyro] just checkout that rotary spark gap – from a distance.

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Solid State Tesla Coil Plays Music

If you’ve ever wanted to build a Tesla coil but found them to be prohibitively expensive and/or complicated, look no further! [Richard] has built a solid-state Tesla coil that has a minimum of parts and is relatively easy to build as well.

This Tesla coil is built around an air-core transformer that steps a low DC voltage up to a very high AC voltage. The core can be hand-wound or purchased as a unit. The drive circuit is where this Tesla coil built is set apart from the others. A Tesla coil generally makes use of a spark gap, but [Richard] is using the Power Pulse Modulator PWM-OCXi v2 which does the switching with transistors instead. The Tesla coil will function with one drive circuit but [Richard] notes that it is more stable with two.

The build doesn’t stop with the solid-state circuitry, though. [Richard] used an Arduino with software normally used to drive a speaker to get his Tesla coil to play music. Be sure to check out the video after the break. If you’re looking for a Tesla coil that is more Halloween-appropriate, you can take a look at this Tesla coil that shocks pumpkins!

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DIY Solid State Tesla Coil

Tesla Coils are always a blast to see and are relativity simple to build. While there are plenty of sites on the subject, [Michael’s] newest instructable breaks building a solid state Tesla Coil down to 12 easy steps.

Items that should be familiar to anyone who has even looked at a Tesla Coil include PVC pipe, Aluminum ducting, and wire … lots of wire. The PVC pipe is cut to length and a flange is attached to help form a base. From there the pipe is wound with about ¾ of a pound of 30 AWG enameled wire, which takes some time by hand to make sure you don’t overlap or get space between the coils.

Aluminum ducting is then wrapped around the outside of a second flange. Some stovepipe wire is ran though the ducting and twisted to close up the 2 ends, and hot glue is used to attach the two ends together. The assembly is screwed to the top of the pipe now containing the secondary of the massive transformer. All that is left is to attach a primary, which is made out of a few turns of 16 AWG wire, and the control circuitry.

Join us after the break for a shocking video!

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