High Voltage Power Supply Design

Hi, I am working on a project that involves any electrostatic brake which requires high voltage to operate. I am new to power supply design, and I have been having trouble figuring out the best way to create a supply that fits my needs. I need at least 1.5kV DC, hardly any current, and the supply has to be as physically small as I can make it.

After some digging, I saw that DigiKey sells small package HV DC-DC Converters that would be perfect for my project if they did not all cost north of $200. Any advice for a cheaper power solution that fits my constraints?



Being new to power supply design, you’re likely going to have trouble coming up with a solution that’s “better” in a holistic sense that what’s on offer from folks who make small HV supplies for a living. Do take a moment to consider the cost of the time, effort, and risk involved in brewing your own; the price tag on commercial product might start looking more reasonable. (BTW, the G25 is only about $100, and really isn’t that large at all considering the kind of creepage/clearance dimensions one needs at the kV level).

That said, a cascaded series of voltage doublers would probably be one of the most straightforward routes. Going with something fancier like a flyback topology of some kind would bring a lot of extra complications that would be tough to deal with all at once.

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Hi pgibert3,

You could perhaps consider using a CCFL ballast, typically used for LCD backlight.

Through Ebay you may find boxed versions too (search “CCFL ballast”).

Old PC LCD monitors use these, so if you have obsolete ones around, dismantle to obtain.

Heke, Asamalab

I will definitely look into the ballast option; thank you for pointing out that part! Out of curiosity, the flyback converter topology doesn’t look too crazy and because I need very little power, I think I could get away with a smaller transformer which would reduce the size of my physical footprint. If I wanted to start with the ballast and then over time learn how power supplies work, where might be a good place to start learning? Books, online articles, other ideas? Thanks for y’alls help so far!

One approach would be to look for application notes on relevant topics or similar applications. Analog/Linear’s AN-118 might be one example focusing on discrete/self-oscillating topologies. As with most design problems there’s more than one road to the same destination, and much depends on where you’re starting and what sites you’d like to see along the way.

Though not as immediately relevant, Wurth’s trilogy of magnetics is a resource I’ve found worthwhile. A bit chewy, but lots of good information relevant to specification, selection, and design of magnetic components for a variety of applications.

For what it’s worth, I’ve found the signal-to-noise ratio and ease of finding good information to have diminished severely over the past decade or so. The price of publication falling essentially to zero has led to a lot of half-baked “content” being generated for the sake of generating something, and because a lot of the better content is older, it tends to get buried. Better info tends to be published in PDF format by component manufacturers as application notes; they’ve got an incentive to educate people on component selection and usage more so than to sell ad space.

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This is very helpful. Thank you for your reply!