High Voltage Generators and Rectification Systems

S C Bansal
Department of Radio-diagnosis & Imaging, P G I M E R, Chandigarh.

Means the flow of current and is measured in amperes. Electric Current Types: Direct Current Alternating Current

Direct Current
Direct Current is the type provided by a battery. It is the flow of electricity in one direction along conductors which carry it in complete circuits. Important feature is that it does not vary with time and change its direction.






Alternating Current
It varies in magnitude continuously and changes direction periodically i.e. electricity swings back and forth in a circuit along the conductors which carry it.
+v e

gnah Ct ne r u C r


Alternating current can be produced by rotating a coil of wire in a magnetic field. The coil has induced in it an electromotive force (emf) which makes the current flow in a complete circuit. This coil rotates at a uniform rate in its magnetic field and the external circuit in which current can be made to flow by means of emf generated in the coil as in graph current against time scale.
Magnetic Field




Graph showing current against time scale
+ve Max +ve b a c e Tim e

gn gnah Ct ne r u C i r not c ei D i r

d Max -ve -ve

The current grows from zero (i.e. a) to a max value b again back to zero (i.e. c), then changes direction. During the period a c on the time axis when the current is moving in one direction and wave is above the horizontal axis it is positive. During the period ce when the current has reversed its direction and wave is shown below horizontal axis it is negative, and this wave like presentation is called AC of sine wave form.

Types of Alternating Current
It is of two types
– Single phase AC – Poly-phase AC

IN single phase AC, only one coil rotates in the magnetic field e.g. 240 volt. In polyphase AC or three phase AC, 3 coils are made to rotate simultaneously by placing at equidistance from each other in front of the magnets which will produce three separate supplies of alternating current. The voltage provided by these separate sources of electricity are out of phase e.g. 415Volt

360o A N C 240o B 120o S




Poly phase alternating current

Methods of distribution of electricity
Once the electricity is generated, it has to be distributed. 2 methods in which the windings of the circuit containing a polyphase generator can be connected are as below: – Star type 3 phase circuit or Wye type – Delta type

Star Type or Wye Type Circuit
Generally for each coil of three phase AC circuit two wires are required and in total 6 wires are needed for 3 coils for use in circuit to keep them apart.
Coil A

Coil B

Coil C

This type of method would result in a poor economy and great wastage. So alternative to this is by having 4 wires in place of 6 wires as shown next.

1 2 II III 3 N


In this star connection coils I, II and III are connected to a common point N known as neutral cable whereas 1,2 and 3 are lines of supply. This is a standard method of supply.

Delta Connection 3 phase circuit The three coils or phases are connected in such a way as they

The three coils or phases are connected in such a way as they look like a triangle or similar to Greek letter delta.

Adv. Of Wye connection over Delta connection:
• Machinery is cheaper. • Less stress and liability to break down in regard to insulation. • Can supply two different voltage as per need of different types of user, e.g. single phase for domestic user and three phase for industrial user or large installations.

Conversion of alternating current into unidirectional pulsating direct current is called rectification. A device which converts AC into pulsating DC is called rectifier. A rectifier can be valve type or vacuum type or it can be solid state/semiconductor/metallic type rectifier. X-Ray tube is a sort of valve type rectifier or diode rectifier as it has two electrodes and allows the current to flow in one direction only.

Thermionic diode valves:
An evacuated tube with two electrodes in it is called a thermionic diode valve. Hence it is like an Xray tube having: A glass envelope enclosing a vacuum. Two electrodes within the glass envelope, one of which is a heated filament. The filament of a valve is heated by a step down transformer and emits electrons which are drawn across to the anode when a potential difference is applied across both the electrodes and the valve passes current.

Functioning of a diode valve:
If the valve is connected in a complete circuit such that cathode is –ve with respect to anode electrons are drawn towards the anode and valve passes current. If the cathode is positive with respect to anode, no electrons will be drawn across the valve and it blocks the current thus the supply of current to X-ray tube is unidirectional only. But these diode valves which were used earlier are replaced with solid state rectifiers. Hence, its function is to pass current in one direction only and to block any reversal flow.

Solid state rectifier
As the name solid state implies, conduction takes place by electron travel through solid materials as opposed to electron flow through a vacuum in a valve. Solid materials used are semi-conductors whose characteristics place them midway between metals, which are conductors of electricity and nonmetals, which mostly are non-conductor of electricity and are insulators. Semiconductors can be made either to conduct or insulate. Selenium, Silicon or Germanium are some commonly used semiconductors to rectify the high tension for an Xray tube in place of vacuum diodes.

N types and P types semiconductors
A semiconductor or solid state rectifier is made of two layers of material. One of these layers is a material which has an excess of free electron i.e. excess of negative charge is called N type material. Examples of N type semiconductor is Silicon or Germanium with minute amount of Phosphorus as impurity added to each element called “Donor impurity”, Second layer called P type semiconductor has a deficiency of electrons or excess of positive charge or holes. These are made of silicon or germanium when Boron or Indium is added as impurity called acceptor impurity.

Construction of Solid State Rectifier
It is formed by joining p type and N type semiconductors together called PN Junction. Thus electrons flow easily from the N type layer towards P type layer i.e. from Donor towards Acceptor but not in opposite direction from P towards N type. Hence unidirection flow of current is obtained and rectification is done. The block to the current in reverse direction occurs at the junctions between the two materials N type and P type i.e. the region where the barrier exists is very thin, hence it is also called junction diode or barrier layer rectifier.

+ + + + +


Junction or Barrier Layer

Advantage of Solid State Rectifier over diode valve:
– Longer life. – No filament heating. – More robust. – Smaller in size. – More compact, i.e. occupy less space, better for mobile units.

Now a days Silicon rectifiers are commonly used compared to Selenium rectifiers as: Silicon rectifiers have lower forward voltage drop of the order 200v compared to 18-20 KV. High resistance to reverse current. Ability to work at higher temperature, approx. 200oC compared to 80oC. Due to higher resistance, lesser number of barrier layers are required. Smaller in size and ability to withstand higher inverse voltage.

High Tension Generators
The high tension transformer together with other components such as rectifiers is called a High Tension Generator . Various types of HT generators varying from simple to complex ones are as below. The self rectified HT Circuits (Single pulse generators) Half wave rectified circuits (Single Pulse). Single phase full wave rectified circuits (Two Pulse). Three phase full wave rectified circuits (Six Pulse). Three phase 12 pulse generators. High frequency generators. Battery powered generators. Capacitor discharged generators. Falling load generators.

Rating of X-Ray generators:
The essential function of HT generators in x-ray equipment is to provide such power as is needed by the x ray tube to which they are connected. So power output of generator is very important specification and it is expressed in Watts- unit of power or Kilowatts. But rating of HT generator is evaluated when the unit is under load and formula involve multiplying Kilovolts and the milliamperes which constitutes the load as below: In case of 3 phase generator: KW = KV × mA 1000 In case of single phase generator: KW = 0.7×KV×mA 1000 (0.7 is the modification factor for single phase generator due to pulsating voltage wave form compared to ripple voltage in three phase generators.

Generators may be compared by means of their Kilowatt ratings and following points must be noted: manufacturer states the highest milliampereage which the generator can produce (e.g. 500mA, 800mA or 1000mA) Manufacturer states the maximum Kilovoltage which the generator can provide e.g. 125KV or 150 KV. These maximum volues of the Kilo voltage and milliamperage cannot be simultaneously obtained. If highest KV is used, then the maximum mA available will be lower than the highest value stated for the generator. Similarly if the highest mA is to be used the available KV is lower than the maximum voltage output given for the generator. e.g. a generator meant for 1000 mA and 150KV might in practice provide as follows:
– – – 1000mA at 80Kv (80KW) 800mA at 100Kv (80KW) 500mA at 150 Kv (75KW)

Kilowatt rating
Kilowatt rating for generators are determined under load and it is convenient to test and state the ratings at the voltage level of 100 KV e.g. for generator giving 800mA at 100KV then KW rating is: 800×100 = 80 KW (in case of three phase) 1000

Self Rectified H T Generator
It is a HT generator in which X-Ray tube is directly connected to the secondary winding of the HT transformer. Thus X-Ray tube itself behaves like a rectifier and allows the current to flow in one direction, hence called self rectified circuit.

SHT PHT X-Ray Tube


Portable / Low power mobile units and dental units. Advantages: Small in size. Simple design. Light in weight. Less cost. Simple to operate.

The peak value which the tube current reaches during the cycle is 3 times of the average value. e.g. peak current = 3* Average current.


Average Tube Current C B A Tim e 1/00 Sec -ve 1/50 sec

o yr a m P ir m o s na T r f r

The peak voltage across the XRay tube during the half cycle when the tube passes current and produces X-Rays is not the same as during the half cycle when the tube does not pass current and does not produces X-Rays.

t ne r u C ebu T y a R X r


1/2 Cycle 1 Cycle




Limitations (contd)
The rating of a given X-ray tube is more limited when the tube is placed in a self rectified circuit than when it is used in any other type of HT generator. There is greater strain on cable used to connect the X-ray tube to the HT transformer in self rectified circuits compared to other rectification systems.

Half Wave Rectified Generators:

SHT PHT X-Ray Tube



Single Phase Full Wave Rectified H T Generator:
In this circuit both half cycles of AC are used to produce X-Rays by employing a bridge of four rectifiers as shown:








X-Ray Tube

Graph Showing Single Phase Two Pulse AC Cycle
+v e

When x –ve, y+ve C→R1→XT→B→R2→D
B C Time

egal o Vr e m o s na T T H t r f r

When y –ve, x+ve D→R3→A→XT→B→R4→C

-ve +v e



C Time
T ya R X

Average Tube Current C Tim e

V ebu T y a X r



Advantages of Single phase full wave HT generator:
Less difference in Average and peak current. Peak current is 1 ½ times of the average current as mA meter always measure average current hence less difference in the temperature rise in the focal spot and actual output of X-ray tube resulting into higher rating of the X-ray tube. No difference in voltage as X-Ray tube passing current during both the halves of AC cycle and voltage during both halves is alike. Short exposure time: for conventional exposure switching minimum duration for single pulse is 1/100 sec, as we are getting 100 half waves in 50 cycles in 1 sec. Higher output than self or half wave rectified circuits. Less strain on HT cables and less insulation cost.

Costly. More complex. Heavier, not easy to transport. Larger in size. Ripple factor is 100% as it is pulsating XRay beam with voltage variation between zero to peak and again to zero.

Three phase full wave 6 pulse generators.
• In these generators all the 3 phases of electric supply of AC generator are utilized by connecting six rectifiers (two each) to all the different phases of secondary HT transformers. Each of the primary windings of HT transformer draws its voltage from a different phase means at any given instant of time the voltage in the primary windings of the HT transformer are different from each other. Similarly the voltages in the secondary windings are different from each other.
• • • Winding A and B works as a system with R2, R4, R1, R5 Winding B and C works as a system with R1, R6, R3, R4 Winding A and C work as a system with R2, R6, R3, R5

At any instant of time, the voltage in all coils is not the same i.e. they are out of step with each other, so two pairs which supply the tube are those pairs which have highest voltage in comparison to 3rd pair. Thus voltage across x-ray tube never falls to zero and takes the form of ripples. This is 20%. Since the voltage in the three windings rise and fall one after the other as time goes by, it is not always the same pair of winding, but from successive combination of pairs that the x-ray tube obtains its voltage. Each winding in turn falls into a period of inactivity as the voltage in it drops down towards the zero point in the cycle.

Voltage in respective coils and x-ray tubes.

Features of a three phase high tension generator.
Voltage wave forms: on the circuits the alternating voltage from the three phases of mains supply are fed into a triple high tension transformer. Here the voltage exists on the secondary winding as three phases of alternating voltage stepped up to the peak values required by the x-ray tube in operation. During the period of time occupied by one full cycle of voltage changes, the x-ray tube has six half waves of useful voltage applied to it.. So the voltage across the x-ray tube takes the rippling form and varies from the maximum in the cycle to some value less than the maximum but it does not fall all the way to zero. i.e. does not fall below 80% of the peak value. Hence there is 20% ripple theoretically its value is 13.5%. This ripple can be reduced further by connecting 12 banks of rectifiers for the two sets of transformer windings on the HT side of the generator. One set is star (Wye) connected and one set is delta connected (instead of two wyes).

This delta wye configuration is shown as :


This circuit arrangement results in 12 half waves of voltage for the x-ray tube during the period of time occupied by one complete cycle of mains alternation. The ripple after the tube voltage is very smalltheoretically it is about 3.5% i.e. better than 13.5% of six rectifier units.


3 Phase 12 Rectifier Circuit

Average and peak currents:
In a three phase HT generator circuit there is a difference between the average milliamperage during the cycle (read by milliammeter) and the peak value which is reached. But is narrow as compared to single phase half wave rectified circuit where peak is about 3 times and in single phase full wave rectified circuit it is about 11/2 times of the average current. And this difference between peak and average value of current is further reduced in 12 rectifier circuit than the six rectifier circuit as average tube current is close to the peak value of the current.

X-Ray tube rating: comparison with single phase. on shorter exposures the x-ray tube has a higher exposure rating on the three phase generator i.e. less than 0.5sec. on exposure longer than 0.5sec. X-ray tube has a lower rating in 3 phase generator. at 0.5 second of exposure the rating for the two circuits is the same. In single phase rms=peak/√2 or rms = 0.71 peak. In three phase rms = 0.95 peak. Hence on long exposure the total heat input to the x-ray tube is shorter resulting into lower tube rating. Shortest available exposure times in 3 phase circuits for each cycle there are six pulses. So on a 50cps supply number of pulses will be 50×6=300 pulses in one sec, and duration of one pulse is 1/300=0.003 sec. So minimum available exposure time for one half wave is the shortest exposure time in milliseconds compared with 0.001 sec of a single phase generator.

Application of three phase generator circuits: Useful in procedures requiring shortest or repetitive exposures e.g. angiography or serial radiography. Advantages: As load is distributed equally overall three phases of the supply when the x-ray exposure is made it can draw larger amounts of power. Hence three phase HT generators can supply higher mA e.g. 1000-1200mA for the x-ray tube than single phase generators. A greater quantity of X ray is produced per KV and mA of the control settings resulting into decrease in exposure time, thus reducing risk of motional unsharpness. E.g. GI tract studies or in cardiac study. With conventional switching minimum exp time of .003 sec is available as compared to single phase generators.

Disadvantages of three phase generators :
More expensive. More complex in circuitry Larger and occupy more space.

Choice of three phase generator
50KW to 70KW: There are six pulse generators with max mA upto 700 and maximum KV upto 150V. The minimum exposure time is usually 0.01 sec and fastest repetition rate upto 8 exp/sec. useful for general radiography and for some angiography – peripheral and abdominal. 70KW to 100KW: There are 12 pulse generators with mA upto 1000-1250 and KV 150. Shortest exposure time is 0.003 sec. rate of repetition not less than 8 exp/sec. useful in angiography studies undertaken with serial film changers. Also useful in busy trauma centers and ortho departments. 150KW-200KW: these are 12 pulse with mA 1200 at KV 150 as voltage. Shortest exposure are down to 0.001 sec even upto 0.0001 second and repetition rate not less than 80 films/sec. useful in cine radiography.

Capacitor Discharge Generators:
They are used with cold cathode field emission x-ray tubes which have no filament. Electrons are drawn off the points of multiple needle like cathodes by a strong electric field. The electric field is supplied by an array of capacitors wired together in both series and parallel. In a complex circuit as shown represented with a single capacitor (c). •


Field Emission X ray Tube

X rays

The capacitors are discharged through the field emission x-ray tube and by closing the switch (s) when capacitors are fully charged- X rays will be produced. A capacitor discharge circuit may take upto 2 minutes to reach full charge and then discharge in a few nanno seconds.

Main advantage:
They deliver a relatively large amount of power (e.g. 350 KV) in a extremely short burst. Exp. Times are so short they can freeze the motion of a bullet in flight.

Battery Powered Generators:
Some portable x-ray machines employ a series of batteries to generate the high voltage and filament currents and are useful to operate in areas where the electric supply is inadequate for the conventional generators. Each cell in the battery pack supplies potential difference of 1.5 volts, so thousands of cells are required to provide high voltages used in diagnostic radiology.

The KV selector in H V Circuit regulate the potential difference across the tube by adding or subtracting batteries from the series. The filament current is adjusted by variable resistor in the filament circuit. The batteries must be recharged periodically for numerous x-ray exposures.

mA Selector

X ray Tube


A KV Selector

Falling load generators.
These are usually specially designed three phased or high frequency generators. They take full advantage of the current loading capacity of the X-ray tube by beginning the exposure with a high milliamperage and then allows it to fall during the exposure. This can be achieved with a constant potential circuit. It requires that both mA and KV be regulated independently. These must be used with automatic exposure controls or rely on mAs timer instead of independent mA and time controls.

Advantage : Shorter times in heavy load situations and simpler operations. Disadvantage : Can shorten x-ray tube life considerably as they use higher mA settings, thus causing the filament to wear out more quickly. Function with mA unknown to the operator so it is impossible for the operator to set the correct time to achieve the desired mAs, therefore, required to be used with automatic exposure controls or rely on mAs timer instead of independent mA and timer controls.

High Frequency Generator: The newest development in high voltage generator design uses a high frequency circuit in which full wave rectified power at 50Hz is converted to a higher frequency, usually 500 to 5000Hz.

Advantages of HF Generators
its small size, can be placed within the x-ray tube housing, produce a nearly constant voltage waveform resulting into improved quality at lower patient dose. Portable x ray imaging systems were the first to use this technology, but now a days all stationary x-ray imaging systems use high frequency voltage generation. High frequency voltage generator uses inverter circuits. Which are high speed switches or choppers, converting DC into a series of square pulses. Real Advantage is they are much smaller, less costly and more efficient than three phase circuits.

Voltage ripple
it is the variation between the peak voltage and the minimum voltage in the circuit. % ripple is % variation between the maximum and minimum voltage in the circuit.

The most efficient method of x-ray production is voltage waveform with lowest ripple. Low ripple generators provide more capacity and flexibility than those with single phase systems.

Thank You!