Category Archives: Tesla Coils

Tesla Coil Tuner

First light of a Tesla Coil tuner.

Old TC TunerSo I needed to get a better Tesla coil Tuner. I have been using this NE555 pinger for 10+ years.

Always said I’d put it in a box.. Never happened…

With some of the tuning problems I’ve had recently I needed a better solution.

So..

 

 

 

 

 

PIC powered USB controlled Tesla Coil Tuner using AD9850 DDS Frequency Synthesis.

Built on a PIC low pin count, USB development board (hence redundant RS232 connector)

Direct connectiontctuner to the Primary Coil with current measuring.

Three ways of measuring.

Primary and cap on its own(Secondary removed)

Secondary on its own (driven by primary with no Primary cap)

Primary Cap and Secondary (across spark gap) – Should see both current dips.

 

Tesla Coil Tuner - sec only

First plot of a small Secondary coil, using VB to drive the USB.

Plots at ~15 seconds for 1000 points (e.g will scan from 500Khz to 1.5Mhz in 1khz steps in ~15 seconds.)

 

Range 50Khz to 4Mhz (with some droop at each end)

I’m having some issues getting a plot with just a primary coil, not sure why at the moment. Also my driver (tc428) is damaged, its not driving correctly to ground. Which may be causing me some issues. But not bad for a first go.

More developments

Added an Ariel input (B)

Improved the display, and removed a whole load of noise on the traces.

Also, added the ability to take snapshots of the traces (pale colours) so you can see any change from scan to scan

Tesla Coil Tuner - sec-pri
This shows a current scan in Dark blue, with a snapshot in light blue and the Ariel input in dark green with a light green snapshot. The current scan was done with my hand near the topload hence the lower resonant frequencies.

This clearly shows the primary (C & L) as a large dip on the left and the secondary / topload as the smaller dip on the right. I’m feeding the primary coil and primary cap in parallel as this gives the best indication of the current change in the primary. For some reason driving the coil with Cpri in series shows a lumped resonance (or doesn’t show the primary resonance up at all)

EMPi – Raspberry Pi

A raspberry Pi that will stand the most intense electromagnetic and electro static environments and cope with EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse). The sort of environment around tesla coils.

 

I started with a Pi and a Adafruit Pi-Plate. My first job was to create a optic-fibre link (115Kb/s) for comms to my tesla coils and it also doubles up as a remote and insulated tty console for the PI. The chips I used for the fibre are the Avago 1524/2524 1Mb/s fibre transmitter/receiver.

20140801_132030 20140801_132520

 

 

 

 

 

The transmitter is driven from a Microchip TC4428 which takes the 3.3v TX to 5V and gives the current drive for the TX LED .The RX is level shifted and inverted using a BC337 (update – a speed up cap was added to the base as at 115kb Rx errors were seen)

 

Img_20140815_3184 Img_20140815_3182

 

 

 

 

 

I realised that the Pi would have to run on its own power supply, so 6 rechargeable AA cells giving 7.2V were added, along with a 7805 regulator to give 5V for the Pi and a couple of diodes to allow the batteries to smoothly take over when the external power was removed.

As the power connector is open to the EM noise on the out side of the case, there is a diode , a cap and a 30V TVS across the power input.

It also became apparent that there was no way of cleanly switching off the Pi without connecting a network or terminal. So I added a button and a script to shutdown the Pi (although not cut the power).

A Pi Cam was attached and bolted to the case, A small hole lets it see the outside world without letting in too much radiation. I also added in a sedcond button which allows the camera to be turned on and off. The script makes the camera take photos every 10 seconds. (I hope to add video too)

Img_20140815_3190

Img_20140815_3187

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I added a removable panel that cover’s the USB, Ethernet and Fibre ports. This is not ideal as I can’t close it fully when I’m running on fibre.

I also added a shutter that goes across the external power/charging connector to further protect the circuits.

20140814_175821 20140814_181113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick test proved that the Pi can run when sat on top of a small tesla coil.

 

Img-2014-08-14-173A11a Img-2014-08-14-173A10a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The camera also worked, but the breakout was too close for the camera to give good photos.

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A monocle (50mm lens with 50mm focal length) was added

 

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Giving a couple of goodish photos of the discharge from under the breakout point. (breakout is the wiggly black line to the LHS)

http://www.extremeelectronics.co.uk/empi-cambridge-teslathon-2014/

http://www.extremeelectronics.co.uk/tesla-coil-slow-motion-video-using-a-raspberry-pi/

 

How do tesla coils make music

I have been asked this question so many time I thought I aught to write down the answer.

Musical tesla coils are fairly common now and there are many videos of them working, but what causes the noise.

So lets start with the basics. Most electronic tesla coils don’t run continuously (Ill come back to CW coils later). To maintain a large spark output current in the primary circuit is key, to get the best out of the components the coils are driven for short periods of time, at high currents, quite often exceeding the continuous rating of the drivers.  During this short ‘on’ period, power is stored as in the primary and secondary coil. As soon as the power is turned off the stored energy is transformed into a high voltage high frequency pulse. It is this pulse that you see as the discharge from the top of the coil.

Creating hot plasma in the atmosphere has an effect, the air heats up to thousands of degrees C in a microsecond or so. This expanding air causes a sound wave that you hear as a click. (or a bang with real lightning, its just a matter of scale.)

So, if you repeat this process at say 263 times a second, you will hear an audio tone at middle C

Music can be played by controlling the length and frequency of the pulses you send to the coil. With these coils getting the frequency and length information is relatively simple from a MIDI audio source via a suitably programmed microprocessor.

Due to the pulsed nature of the coil real audio (e.g speech,singing etc) cannot be rendered.

OK, I mentioned CW (Constant or Carrier wave) Tesla coils
With CW coils the power isn’t interrupted they are driven constantly. Their output is essentially silent (You do get a hiss at lower frequencies due to variations in the spark output). To get music from these coils you vary the power going in to them in a very similar way to an AM radio transmitter. There is two ways of achieving this.
1) You control the voltage to the driver therefor controlling the power
2) You vary the frequency of the drive (FM modulation), The tuned circuit formed by the secondary gives maximum output only at the central frequency, so the effective output power is varied as the frequency is varied.

As the power is continuous, you can’t gain any power advantage by short pulses and neither do you get the voltage gain by the release of the stored power in the secondary so the sparks are smaller than a pulsed coil.

But, you can render speech, singing and any instrument can be played due to the almost radio style modulation. Plasma speakers are made using this technique.

How do tesla coils make music

I have been asked this question so many time I thought I aught to write down the answer.

Musical tesla coils are fairly common now and there are many videos of them working, but what causes the noise.

So lets start with the basics. Most electronic tesla coils don’t run continuously (Ill come back to CW coils later). To maintain a large spark output current in the primary circuit is key, to get the best out of the components the coils are driven for short periods of time, at high currents, quite often exceeding the continuous rating of the drivers. During this short ‘on’ period, power is stored as in the primary and secondary coil. As soon as the power is turned off the stored energy is transformed into a high voltage high frequency pulse. It is this pulse that you see as the discharge from the top of the coil.

Creating hot plasma in the atmosphere has an effect, the air heats up to thousands of degrees C in a microsecond or so. This expanding air causes a sound wave that you hear as a click. (or a bang with real lightning, its just a matter of scale.)

So, if you repeat this process at say 440 times a second, you will hear an audio tone at middle C

Music can be played by controlling the length and frequency of the pulses you send to the coil. With these coils getting the frequency and length information is relatively simple from a MIDI audio source via a suitably programmed microprocessor.

Due to the pulsed nature of the coil real audio (e.g speech,singing etc) cannot be rendered.

OK, I mentioned CW (Constant or Carrier wave) Tesla coils
With CW coils the power isn’t interrupted they are driven constantly. Their output is essentially silent (You do get a hiss at lower frequencies due to variations in the spark output). To get music from these coils you vary the power going in to them in a very similar way to an AM radio transmitter. There is two ways of achieving this.
1) You control the voltage to the driver therefor controlling the power
2) You vary the frequency of the drive (FM modulation), The tuned circuit formed by the secondary gives maximum output only at the central frequency, so the effective output power is varied as the frequency is varied.

As the power is continuous, you can’t gain any power advantage by short pulses and neither do you get the voltage gain by the release of the stored power in the secondary so the sparks are smaller than a pulsed coil.

But, you can render speech, singing and any instrument can be played due to the almost radio style modulation. Plasma speakers are made using this technique.

Tesla Coil Tuner

First light of a Tesla Coil tuner.

Old TC TunerSo I needed to get a better Tesla coil Tuner. I have been using this NE555 pinger for 10+ years.

Always said I’d put it in a box.. Never happened…

With some of the tuning problems I’ve had recently I needed a better solution.

So..

 

 

 

 

 

PIC powered USB controlled Tesla Coil Tuner using AD9850 DDS Frequency Synthesis.

Built on a PIC low pin count, USB development board (hence redundant RS232 connector)

Direct connectiontctuner to the Primary Coil with current measuring.

Three ways of measuring.

Primary and cap on its own(Secondary removed)

Secondary on its own (driven by primary with no Primary cap)

Primary Cap and Secondary (across spark gap) – Should see both current dips.

 

Tesla Coil Tuner - sec only

First plot of a small Secondary coil, using VB to drive the USB.

Plots at ~15 seconds for 1000 points (e.g will scan from 500Khz to 1.5Mhz in 1khz steps in ~15 seconds.)

 

Range 50Khz to 4Mhz (with some droop at each end)

I’m having some issues getting a plot with just a primary coil, not sure why at the moment. Also my driver (tc428) is damaged, its not driving correctly to ground. Which may be causing me some issues. But not bad for a first go.

More developments

Added an Ariel input (B)

Improved the display, and removed a whole load of noise on the traces.

Also, added the ability to take snapshots of the traces (pale colours) so you can see any change from scan to scan

Tesla Coil Tuner - sec-pri
This shows a current scan in Dark blue, with a snapshot in light blue and the Ariel input in dark green with a light green snapshot. The current scan was done with my hand near the topload hence the lower resonant frequencies.

This clearly shows the primary (C & L) as a large dip on the left and the secondary / topload as the smaller dip on the right. I’m feeding the primary coil and primary cap in parallel as this gives the best indication of the current change in the primary.  For some reason driving the coil with Cpri in series shows a lumped resonance (or doesn’t show the primary resonance up at all)

Stand on Tesla coil

Img20130914_10305

 [shortlink url=”http://tinyurl.com/msd4o8v” title=”Continued From V8 Tesla Engine”]

After playing with the V8 Tesla engine I realised that I could build a stand on tesla coil. The lack of mains power could make this “fairly” safe.

So I started with a topload that was big enough and strong enough to stand on. I started with a pair of 110mm PVC tubes and joined them together. The thought was to make an oval tesla coil (big mistake).

After winding the secondary, by hand (1000T of 0.33mm wire ) on to the former I started to realise that there was a problem, the wire stretched slightly and started to sag between the two tubes. To give the wire some support I wound PVC tape around the coils as I completed them. This was partially successful, but as I had nothing to loose so I continued.

IMAG0317

The Topload needed to be strong enough to

stand on too and smooth and an oval.

So I started with an MDF former of 3 oval sheets spaced to a total height of 2.5″, and an external wrap of pipe lagging to give the external shape.

Over this I added paper mache and then a covering of plaster and PVA glue to give it strength. This last layer could be sanded to smooth out the edges.

Img20130914_10302The Primary, I quickly roughed out from 50′ of 5mm break pipe held in an oval spiral with cable ties and adhesive.

The output from the V8 tesla engine is fed into a primary cap and an crude sparkgap.

 

 

 

 

Img20140301_11421

Here is the coil working at the Nottingham Gaussfest.

Note that the problems with the secondary coil are starting to show with a breakout at the bottom.

But it was worth having a go at standing out the coil. After a while I found that the tuning point changed only a single turn when I was standing on the coil.

Below is a video of the first run with me on top.

So I realised that the secondary needed to be re-built The pictures below show the damage.20140305_194312

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So the rebuild begins

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This time I’ve packed out the space with some cardboard  in the void between the PVC pipes and sheets under the coil bridging the two pipes. The cardboard is held in place with many layers of adhesive craft paper that was varnished before the wire was wound on.

The finished article looks a load better then the old one, but there is still some minor ‘droopage’ between turns. So the coil was heavily varnished after winding.

Hopefully it will not suffer the same breakouts as the old.

 

Also I decided to clean and re-mount the sparkgap the old copper pipe gaps were a little? corroded.

The Sparkgap is mounted on to a channelled acrlyic chamber that allows a high volume fan to blow air over the gaps for cooling and more importantly  spark quenching.

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Better results from the new coil