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 - This project generates lethal voltages and can develop a fire hazzard in the event
of a fault. If you are not capable of handling these voltages then do NOT attempt to build this
project, without supervision from someone who is qualified. This project is NOT suitable for
children or beginners.

 
This project is a development of my "alternative power" project, given on the web at
psu_inverter_01.htm. In the power project I showed you how I generated 50/60Hz (ish) at 50
Watts, sufficient to drive at least four of those 11W economy lamps, and to build the circuit in 15
minutes, without soldering. I also showed you how I built larger inverters, using bipolar
transistors.

This new project is an extension of that project, but this one does indeed need some soldering
expertise. It can easily generate typically 500 Watts, continuously. As a kit I will supply the
transistors and transformer to generate around 40 Watts. Here is the circuit "lashed together" and
generating about 400 Watts. The board is 2.1" by 2.4" so it gives you a good idea as to the scale
of the picture.
This DC-AC inverter is a lot more frequency-stable than the 15-minute DC-AC converter and it
can be built to operate with battery voltages from 12 Volts to 48 Volts. The basic advantages of
this unit are:

m ÷ow control-board idle current - around 10mA


m Operate from 12v, 24v or 48v
m Very high efficiency - minimal heatsinking
m table frequency on load
m Wide component tolerances
m One board for 10 Watts to 1000 Watts

Yes! the same board will work with a small 10 Watt transformer, but also with a 1000 Watt
transformer. If you find a source of these transformers at a "reasonable price" then please drop
me a line.

  ! "
The heart of the circuit is a simple multi-vibrator oscillator, TR1 and TR2. I have chosen BC547
because I have a lot of them, but BC108, 2N2222, or just about any silicon NPN transistor will
work here. The frequency is determined by the 0.1uF and 120k (100K) resistors, R1 and R2. Use
100K if you want a 60Hz (ish) operating frequency. If you use the unit indoors in a temperature-
controlled environment then simple and cheap ceramic capacitors are adequate. Otherwise you
should use "Polystyrene Film" (polyester or polypropylene dielectric), which have excellent
temperature stability properties.

The multi-vibrator output, in principle, could be fed directly to the gates of power field-effect
transistors, but for best efficiency we want them to be turned 100% ON, or 100% OFF (notice
how I avoided the use of the term "hard on" :-). If you analyse the collectors of TR1 and TR2
you will find that they do NOT generate a nice square-wave. They look like this:

That positive slope is a problem. If the power transistors are only 1/2 ON, then they will
dissipate (waste) power. The time interval between OFF and ON may be small, but it is enough
to cause the output transistor to dissipate power. If it dissipates just 2% then at 500 Watts my
modest heatsink will cook. I want to have a nice, clean square-wave. But I can also use this slope
to cause a delay, so there is a moment of pause between the two power transistors ON time. This
will avoid any overlap.

This is done by the operation amplifier, IC1, which switches ON and OFF cleanly and also
functions as a level detector. When the collectors of TR1 and TR2 have reached about 11 Volts
(in the centre of the circle on the scope picture), then IC1 will change state. With this clean 0 - 12
Volt square waves to TR3 and TR4, they are hard-off, or hard-on (sorry!!). o let us look at the
modified circuit:

IC2 (78÷12) is a 12 Volt regulator that feeds the Op-Amp and oscillator. This device only needs
to supply 10mA of idle current to the complete card, but it is only rated at 30 to 35 Volts. The 24
Volt lamp in the supply circuit is a cheap way of limiting the supply to a safe level. The lamp is
not needed for the 12 Volt inverter.

Notice the 1uf non-electrolytic 400vDC working capacitor clanked across the transformer 230v
AC winding. This capacitor takes away the spikes that could possibly damage sensitive
equipment. If you want to be really nice, then a choke-input PI-filter, comprising 10mH chokes
and 10uF non-electrolytic caps, would make the output sort of resemble a sinewave. This would
make the unit suitable for other more sensitive equipment, listed further down this article (under
do NOT connect).

The transformer is any AC mains to low-voltage transformer with a split secondary. I use it
backwards. A 12v-0-12v to 230v (115v) that will handle the current is perfect for 12 Volt, 250
Watt operation. A 24v-0-24v to 230v (115v) is about the best compromise for up to 500 Watts.
You need 48v-0-48v to 230v (115v) if you want to go up to 1000 Watts. You can parallel
transformers, as long as they are identical. A 0-24v + 0-24v to 230v can have the two
secondaries wired in series to form a 24v-0-24v to 230v transformer.

A suitable source of low power transformers is scrap HiFi amplifiers. They often have a 30v-0-
30v that will deliver mains voltages from 36v DC. They are usually good for over 100 Watts. For
up to 200 Watts, you can use Elfa but at $90 (plus 25% tax) they are very expensive. Battery
chargers are also a suitable source, but you can rewind a 500 Watts mains isolation, or 115/230v
converter transformer.

! 
All the components, except for the transformer, are mounted on a single-sided printed circuit
board. The field-effect power transistors are also fitted to the board, but they are mounted on a
heat-sink and provide the support for the board. The board is not to be bolted down to anything.
Pay particular attention to the components, especially the orientation of the transistors and the
10uf electrolytic capacitor. I hate to admit it, but I got a bit of a shock with the first prototype of
this board. I made the basic mistake of fitting the electrolytic capacitor the wrong way round.
These "little-buggers" DO make a loud noise!

The power transistors are to be mounted on two separate, insulated heat sinks. These are also the
connections to the transistors, so they must NOT come into contact with each-other, or the unit
chassis. You only need approximately 20 square-centimetres of area, but even that is much more
than is really needed. The heat sink is more fore safety than necessity as the prototype will
deliver 250 Watts continuous without any heatsinking at all :-). I used these ready-made brackets
as heatsinks, bought from my local builders, and held them in place with groundsheet clamps.

In operation you need to have a fuse in the battery lead. If you intend to load the inverter to 500
Watts, then you will have a current of 45 Amperes at 12 Volts, or only 22 Amperes at 24 Volts.
At 48 Volts battery voltage, the current will halve yet again to 10 Amperes.

TR3 and TR4 can be selected for the purpose. I have used IRFP260 HEXFETs, which are
excellent animals. If you apply 10 volts to the gate then they have an ON resistance of typically
0.055 Ohms. They will handle over 45 Amperes, with the odd spike of over 150 Amperes. They
will also tolerate up to 200 Volts. The problem is that they cost money. ÷ots of it! For modest 24
Volt to 115/230 Volt "caravan power" unit, then the IRF540 would be a good compromise
between money and power. You should be able to pull 200 Watts from a pair of those. Here is a
quick comparison chart between some devices.

 #  $ %& '( !%& '( %& '( ) *"  


IRF710 36 Watts 400 Volts 2 Amperes U$ 1.00
IRF510 40 Watts 100 Volts 5 Amperes U$ 1.50
BUZ80A 75 Watts 800 Volts 3 Amperes U$ 14.00
IRF540 150 Watts 100 Volts 30 Amperes U$ 4.00
IRFP260N 300 Watts 200 Volts 50 Amperes U$ 11.00
TE180NE10 360 Watts 100 Volts 180 Amperes U$151.00

I have used the elfa power FET page as a reference source for data and prices (prices given in
Euros). The device you select must be rated at least 4x the battery voltage you are using. One
thing to remember when playing with power is that when things go wrong there is usually a
violent pyrotechnic display, so select devices with a good margin.

In case you did not know, power transistors contain a little silicon and a lot of smoke. The smoke
is hevily pressurised, which is why these devices are so expensive. If you let out the smoke then
they will stop working.

All the components fit on the PCB, and the power transistors are used to support the board. I
have not used the current restrictor lamp for the prototype, mainly because I am too damn lazy. I
also feel that I will not make another mistake and blow any more components sky-high. But I
will fit the lamp before I put the board into full-time service. Here is the completed PCB:

 !+
When testing, do NOT be tempted to use aligator-aligator leads for battery connections, or you
could suffer burns to your hand in the event of a wiring fault. ÷ead-acid batteries can deliver a
dangerously high current.

If you have an oscilloscope handy, then apply power to the board, before the transformer is
connected. ÷ook at the gate terminal of each power transistor. There should be a nice clean 0 - 12
Volt square-wave. If you have an analogue Multimeter, then check that there is about 6 Volts DC
present at the same terminals, with respect to the battery negative terminal. If you measure the
AC voltage between the TR3 and TR4 gate terminals you should see 12 Volts.

Bolt the transformer wires to the heat sinks and connect the battery positive to the transformer.
The battery wires must be rated at least 5 Amperes, minimum. This means at least 1.5mm
Diameter conductor (1.8mm cross-sectional-area) (14-AWG, 16-WG). You can now load the
inverter to 100 Watts at 24 Volts (50 Watts at 12 Volts). Here is a simple table to give you an
idea as to the minimum wire sizes needed:

,-$  -.$  ./$ 



$  &"!  0   &"!  0   &"!  0  
50 Watt 5 A 1.6 14 16 2.5 A 1.1 18 18 1.3 A 0.8 21 21
100 Watt 10 A 2.1 12 14 5 A 1.6 14 16 2.5 A 1.1 17 18
150 Watt 15 A 2.5 10 13 7.5 A 1.8 13 15 4 A 1.3 16 17
250 Watt 25 A 3.3 8 10 12.5 A 2.4 11 13 6 A 1.7 14 16
350 Watt 35 A 4.1 6 9 18 A 2.9 9 11 9 A 2.0 12 14
500 Watt 50 A 4.7 5 8 25 A 3.3 8 10 12 A 2.4 11 13
750 Watt - - - - 40 A 4.3 6 9 20 A 3.0 9 11
1000 Watt - - - - - - - - 25 A 3.3 8 10

NOTE:

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The unit described here will provide a reliable AC power source. Bear in mind that this unit does
NOT deliver a sinusoidal (sine) waveform, which means that power controllers using "phase
angle" control, such as drill-speed regulators, dimmers, and heating element controllers, will not
function. The unit will remain 100% ON or OFF.

Many "synchronous" motors require a clean sine wave if they are to operate without burning out.
The old "squirrel-cage" motor may overheat. This includes desk and ceiling fans, and those old-
fashioned record-players and reel-to-reel tape recorders. Most central heating pumps also need a
clean sine wave.

This DC-AC unit is also based upon a free-running oscillator. This means that the frequency is
close, but not accurate, which is the price you pay for a simple unit. Your digital bedside clock
may gain or loose a couple of hours a day, but the radio will work. You can forget about your
video tape recorder timer, but you can use the VCR for normal recording and playback.

You can, however, use most items domestic items, such as your cell phone charger, computer,
modem, lamps, TV, in fact 90% of your electrical apparatus will work. In general, if the unit has
a transformer input, or one of those external little units you plug into the wall to get 12 Volts,
then it should work fine. But here is a short list of some items that will and will not work:

1!  ! 
Cellular telephone charger
Electronic test equipment
Computer, Printer, Modem
Computer monitors
Tungsten lamps
Fluorescent lamps Ceiling fans (brushless)
"Economy" lamps Phase/synchronous motors
Radio, TV, VCR Phase-angle control units
atellite/Terestrial receiver Clocks, 50/60Hz dependant units
÷ocks, security, CCTV ÷amp dimmers
AC/DC motors, drills, saws Drill speed controllers
Chargers, starters, heaters ynchronous central-heating pumps
Transformer input equipment Older record turntables
Oil-fired boilers/heaters
Fire/intruder alarm
"Battery Eliminator" units
Toys, Train-sets, etc
All valve (tube) equipment.

If you are unsure, then do not risk using it. If you do want to "give it a go", then observe it when
you try it. If it fails to operate then unplug immediately. If it does work, then keep an eye on it
for a while, making sure there is no overheating. Most transformer-input equipment will usually
run more efficient with a square-wave.
)"+ 
The above text will give you a good idea as to how to build this project, and to modify it for
other power levels. The result is a DC-AC power supply unit that will deliver power
continuously in the event of a power failure. In principle there is & '&&& 
"$   + 2. The power field-effect transistors draw no gate current, which
means that you can build the unit for 500 Watts, then add another TR3/TR4 pair and a
transformer to get 2x 500 Watts. Feed the new pair from IC1 via another two 2K2 resistors. IC1
will deliver enough to feed eight or more sets of power transistors, which means that a 4000 Watt
(8x 500W), 6000 Watt, or even an 8000 Watt (8x 1000W) inverter, is quite practical.

A nice little trick for low power levels is to run equipment from this DC-AC unit continuously,
but "float-charge" the batteries with conventional battery charger. The charger must be capable
of delivering twice the current drawn by the DC-AC power unit. This will in effect give you an
un-interrupted power supply. If the main supply fails then you may never even know it has
failed.

If you can afford to buy a solar-panel, or have a wind-mill that can supply enough current, then
you can also save money by charging the battery at the same time as you use it. You will
probably never be able to become independent of the main power utility company, but you will
be able to reduce the money you pay them. A couple of car generators on a board can be
powered from a simple lawn-mower engine, and this is the solution Magnus, my step-son, has
used on his girlfriend's island. Magnus is using a 12v system so he used just one generator: