University of Canterbury Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

ENEL427 - Project
Developing a New Design Procedure for the Tesla Coil using Finite Element Method

Final Report

Student Name: P.N. Rue Student I.D: 53936797

Student Email: pnr22@uclive.ac.nz

Project Supervisor: Professor Pat Bodger

Finite Element Method can confidently be used in the design process.Abstract Though the Tesla coil has been around for over a one hundred years. The hobbyist who build the Tesla coil do not fully understand the electrical principles behind the Tesla coil and hence why the design process has not changed. This is a result because the Tesla coil is rarely studied by academics and is usually more of a hobbyist activity. The secondary capacitance is determined by the shape of the top toroid and there is no accurate equation at can determine the secondary capacitance based on the toroid shape. Finite Element Method is an accurate tool that can accurately solve non-linear problems including inductances. the fundamental design process has not significantly changed. As a results of the model and measured results. mutual inductance and capacitances. To prove that Finite Element Method is accurate enough a existing Tesla coil was modified. i . One major problem in the design process is determining the effective secondary capacitance. This report describes a new design procedure for the Tesla coil using Finite Element Method.

..................................................................................................................................... 12 6....................................................................................... 2 3............................... Finite Element Principles ........... 2 2...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... New Tesla Coil Design & Testing Procedure ........................................................ 5 4................................................................................................................................................................... 16 ii ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 9 4........................................1 Overview ................3 FEM Modeling .......................................2 Traditional Calculations................................... 1 Tesla Coil Principles & Operating Theory .........................1 ElecNet Simulations ........................................................3................ 6 4..... Conclusion ...2 Layout of a Basic Tesla Coil ... 2..................................................... 14 7.....4 PSCAD Simulation............................................................... 2 Operating Theory of a Basic Tesla Coil ...................................... 7 4. Design Example of a Tesla Coil ............5 Testing Procedure ................................................. 10 4.... Discussion ...................... References’ .......................................................................1 MagNet Simulation .... 15 8.........3................................................... 7 4............................................................ 6 4.......... Introduction ....... 7 4...............1 2.........................................................................................Table of Contents 1............................ 11 5.................................................................

This report describes a new method using Finite Element method that will allow the designer of a Tesla Coil to draw in the physical dimensions of their design and accurately determine the electrical parameters including primary and secondary inductance. Though the Tesla Coil has been studied and designed by many people. mutual inductance between the two coils and the effective secondary capacitance based on the shape of the toroid. The main feature of the Tesla Coil that attracts thousands of people to them is the high frequency and high voltage sparks that can be seen coming off the top. This is due mainly for the fact that people who build them come from a hobbyist approach and do not fully understand the electrical principles behind the Tesla Coil. The secondary capacitance is created by the shape of the top toroid relative to other objects and ground. The Tesla coil which was invented by Nikola Tesla in the 19th Century has today evolved into a hobbyist activity with thousands of people around the world (especially in the USA) regularly meeting up and showing their designs.1.N Rue Page 1 of 16 3/10/2011 . One major problem in the design process is determining the secondary capacitance. Introduction The Tesla Coil is essentially a High Frequency Air Core Resonate Transformer that can transform mains AC voltage into hundreds of kilovolts on the secondary side. P. the fundamental of the design process has not changed over the past one hundred years. There is no concrete and easy way to determine the secondary capacitance based on the shape and the process involved with determining the value is more of an art than engineering.

1 Layout of a Basic Tesla Coil Figure 1 show the typical arrangement for a Tesla Coil. The output must have a current limit usually between 30 mA and 60 mA. The typical Tesla Coil must consists of the following[1] • • A voltage supply usually at mains voltage (230 Vac RMS) A step up transformer with an output voltage usually between 10 kV and 15 kV. Tesla Coil Principles & Operating Theory 2.N Rue Page 2 of 16 3/10/2011 .2.2 Operating Theory of a Basic Tesla Coil Figure 2 shows the different stages of operation of a Tesla Coil which can be broken down into four different stages. P. • • A spark gap usually connected across the primary to the step up transformer A Primary Circuit consisting of o A high voltage capacitor o A primary inductor • A Secondary Circuit consisting of o A secondary inductor o A secondary toroid with the shape determining the effective secondary capacitance Figure 1 General Layout & Circuit Diagram of a Tesla Coil 2.

In the third stage. then energy will start to oscillate between the primary inductor and HV Capacitor at the circuit resonate frequency. the primary circuit can be modeled as an RLC resonant series circuit. the supply circuit and primary circuit are electrically decoupled. the secondary circuit can also be modeled as an RLC resonant series circuit as it consists of a secondary inductor. As a result of the decoupling. In the second stage. As a result of this short circuit.Figure 2 Operation Theory of a Tesla Coil In the first stage. the spark gap will break down causing a short circuit across the HV side of the step up transformer. The reason for this is because the impedance of the inductor given at 50 Hz is very low compared to the resonate frequency which is chosen by the designer. As a result of the very low impedance. Provided that the primary RLC circuit is under damped.N Rue Page 3 of 16 3/10/2011 . At the point where the potential of the HV Capacitor is higher than the break down voltage of the spark gap. the source sees the inductor as a short circuit. the HV Capacitor on the primary circuit is charged up to nearly the same potential as the HV side of the step up transformer. as a result of the short circuit. the energy stored in the primary capacitor is dissipated into the primary inductor. a toroid which determines the effective secondary P.

and the secondary circuit is also under damped and the coupling coefficient of the primary inductor to the secondary inductor is between 0. repeating the process. once the energy in the primary circuit dies away. the source will see the inductor as a short circuit. Provided that the calculated resonant frequency of the secondary circuit is similar to the primary. and charge the capacitor again.05 and 0. the power being transferred to the secondary circuit will stop resulting in the spark gap to open up again.2 then power from the primary inductor will be transferred to the secondary inductor. This cycle of events happens once every half cycle of a 50 Hz mains AC voltage. As a result.capacitance and winding and air resistance. In the fourth stage. As a result.N Rue Page 4 of 16 3/10/2011 . energy from the secondary inductor will start to oscillate between the secondary inductor and the effective secondary capacitance at the secondary circuit resonate frequency resulting the high frequency and high voltage sparks seen from the top. And hence the spark gap shorts 100 times every second[1] P.

Then FEM will break the drawing up into small grids.N Rue Page 5 of 16 3/10/2011 . ElecNet is used to solve the electric fields involved with a Tesla coil. the effective secondary capacitance and self capacitance can be solved[3][4]. The program iteratively goes through each point on the grid and finds the average of the sum from the surrounding points. As a result. MagNet and ElecNet were used. FEM works by the user drawing in an outline on an object. FEM knows based on the users data that the high voltage will have an equipotential point of 100% and the ground plane will have an equipotential point of 0%. FEM has number of applications including Mechanical and Electrical projects. The program does this for each point until all the points have been calculated.[3][4]. the inductance of the primary and secondary circuit and the mutual inductance between the two coils can accurately be determined. Magnet is used to solve the magnetic fields involved with a Tesla coil.3. The user lists the material of the object and selects which part of the object will see the high voltage and what part sees the ground. Finite Element Principles Finite Element Method (FEM) is a numerical method that can solve non-linear problems. For this project. Figure 3 shows an example of how FEM works. The program goes over all the points again and again until the difference between the previous value is small that there is very little change. Figure 3 FEM Example of Electric Fields P. As a result.

Based on this model.4. the inductances of the primary can secondary circuit can be determined and compared to first step. New Tesla Coil Design & Testing Procedure 4. If the model corresponds well to the first stage than the third step which involves modeling the design using PSCAD can be carried out.N Rue Page 6 of 16 3/10/2011 . Figure 4 Overview of New Design Procedure for a Tesla Coil P. The mutual inductance can be determined and the effective secondary capacitance can be determined can compared to the estimated values. If so then the Tesla coil should work. the First step needs to be carried out again until the model is right.1 Overview Figure 4 show an overview of the new design procedure. testing needs to be carried out to check whether or not the physical values match to the calculated. The Procedure is as follows: The first step is to calculate the traditional values of a Tesla Coil based on the desired inputs. If not. The next step is to draw a model of the Tesla coil in MagNet[3] and ElecNet[4] based on the physical and electrical values determined in the first step. If not change the design parameters so see if Tesla coil will work. then the next step of building the Tesla coil can be carried out. Once the Tesla Coil is built and tuned. If the model produces the expected waveforms.

4. the Tesla coil is symmetric about a point so when modeling it. The value of the secondary coil radius and resonant frequency and terminal capacitance will determine the secondary inductance and shape[1]. it is important to note that the size of the output current must be able to supply enough charge to charge a capacitor up with in 20ms otherwise the Tesla coil will not work properly.3 FEM Modeling MagNet[3] and ElecNet[4] both come in 2D and 3D versions. they are: • • • • • The desired secondary voltage The desired resonate frequency (same for primary and secondary circuit) The primary capacitor The secondary coil radius The estimate of the secondary terminal capacitance (capacitance created by the toroid) These inputs are important because the desired resonate frequency. the blocks are actually wire or copper tubing. The 2D version of the FEM software can be used to model a 3D version of an object provided that the object being modeled is symmetric around a point.1 MagNet Simulation MagNet[3] is a software package that can model magnetic fields of object. For a full set of instructions please refer to the infolytica [3][4] website. there are five key inputs that needed to be known.N Rue Page 7 of 16 3/10/2011 . When designing a Tesla coil. to make the complexity of the model simple. refer to The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction[1]. 4. For a full set of design equations. blocks have replace copper P.3. and capacitor will determine the value of the primary inductor and hence shape. For the case of this project.2 Traditional Calculations . It is noted that there are only 4 blocks which consists of a primary and secondary inductor. When selecting the power supply for the Tesla coil. only the cross sectional part through the center needs to be modeled. Figure 5 shows a typical model of a Tesla coil in MagNet. 4. Though in real life.

P. Base on the output results. the primary inductor can be calculate to be = Where is the Primary Inductance.tubing and wire.N Rue Page 8 of 16 3/10/2011 . To calculate the primary inductance. This is because there is very little difference in results between using modeling wire tubing as blocks and circles. the current per turn in the primary must be set to zero and set the current per turn in the secondary inductor must be set to one. Figure 5 MagNet Model of a Tesla Coil From this model. To calculate the secondary inductance. the primary inductance. secondary inductance and mutual inductance can be calculated. the current per turn on the secondary inductor must be zero and the current per turn on the primary coil must be one. Based on the output results after the model is solved. . is the Flux Linkage on the Primary Coil created by the Primary Current and is the Primary Current. . the secondary inductor can be calculate to be = .

not how much current is going through a wire hence by charging the current. Hence for a basic model to determine the effective secondary capacitance. it has been ignored as is has little effective on what the actual secondary capacitance is. and as a result. but to reduce the complexity of the model.3. and the primary inductor a ground electrode. the top toroid should be made a positive electrode at 1 V RMS. Blocks have been used to show the primary and secondary inductor. = . the secondary inductor will have a small impact on the secondary capacitance. The secondary inductor is not made an electrode. is the Flux linkage on the primary coil created by the .N Rue Page 9 of 16 3/10/2011 . and the flux linkage will change proportionally[3].Where is the Secondary Inductance. Once the model has been set up and solved. For the same reasons as described in section 4.3. 4. The reason why a current per turn of one has been used instead of the actual current is because the inductance is created by the shape of the wire. is the Flux linkage on the secondary coil created by the Secondary Current and is the Secondary Current To determine the mutual inductance between the primary and secondary coil: The primary current per turn is set to one and secondary current per turn is set to zero or The secondary current per turn is set to one and primary current per turn is set to zero Then the model is solved and hence the mutual inductance can be calculate by = Where is the Mutual Inductance. Secondary Current and is the Secondary Current. . Normally. . the total secondary capacitance can be calculated by: = P. the FEM program will not see the secondary inductor.1 MagNet Simulation. When selecting which block becomes what type of electrode.1 ElecNet Simulations ElecNet[4] is a software package that can model electric fields of an object. it is important to remember that the secondary circuit will see the primary inductor as a ground plane. Figure 6 shows a typical model of a Tesla Coil in ElecNet. . is the Flux linkage on the secondary coil created by the primary current and is the primary current.

Q is the modeled charge on the top toroid and V is the applied voltage to the top of the toroid[4]. The reason for this is because though the couple inductor of a Tesla coil is effectively a transformer but all the transformer models in PSCAD are give in terms of leakage and magnetising P.N Rue Page 10 of 16 3/10/2011 . Figure 6 ElecNet Model of a Tesla Coil 4. the Tesla coil can be modeled using PSCAD[5]. The switches are connected to signal generators which turn the switches on when the waveform reaches the peak and dip of the cycle as it normally would in a Tesla coil. The resaons why power electronic switched have been used is because PSCAD does not have a simple spark gap model. Figure 7 shows a basic model in PSCAD of a Tesla coil. a source that simulates the output of a transformer has been used. The spark gap has been modeled using two power electronic switches. The main difference between the PSCAD model and the actual Tesla coil are the following: Instead of modeling a step up transformer with mains supply. The main reason for this is it reduces the complexity of the model. The couple inductor has been modeled using a couple transmission line model.where is the effective secondary capacitance. PSCAD is normally uses to model power systems but has been chosen because it is relatively simple to use.4 PSCAD Simulation Once the electrical parameters of the design have been determine.

the effective capacitance will slightly decrease and hence the resonate frequency of the secondary circuit will increase. It is also important to note that the secondary circuit should have a slightly lower resonate frequency than the secondary circuit.reactance’s not in terms of mutual inductances and inductance which have been determined be the Tesla coil model. This is because as soon as the spark breaks out of the top toroid. They are: Measure the Primary. Determine the secondary Capacitance of the Secondary Circuit. there are three electrical tests that need to be carried out.N Rue Page 11 of 16 3/10/2011 . and built. Figure 7 PSCAD Model of a Tesla Coil 4.5 Testing Procedure Once the Tesla Coil has been designed. Measure the Resonate Frequency of both the primary and secondary circuit. The testing procedure used was taken from the Classical Tesla Coil Design Report[6]. then the Tesla coil will not work. These tests are important because if the primary and secondary circuit of the Tesla coil tuned with a similar resonate frequency. P. Secondary and mutual Inductance.

But the principle of using Finite Element method to help design a Tesla coil has not been done before.5 x 10 F C With second toroid Applied Voltage 1 Volt RMS Measured Charge 17. The ideas of this project it to prove that the FEM will be accurate enough to help aid the Tesla coil design. the secondary toroid had been constructed so the primary inductor.N Rue Page 12 of 16 3/10/2011 . Figure 8 shows the model of the Tesla coil. Figure 8 Tesla Coil Design Example The results from the model are as follows: Without secondary toroid Applied Voltage 1 Volt RMS Measured Charge 16.5. and secondary inductor would sit on top of the secondary inductor. The reason why a new Tesla coil from scratch was not designed was because the Tesla coil principle has been around for over one hundred years.5 x 10 Capacitance = 16.4 x 10 Capacitance = 17. The figure on the left shows the Tesla coil without the second toroid and the right figure shows the Tesla coil with the second toroid.4 x 10 F C P. To make the construction of the secondary toroid easier. Design Example of a Tesla Coil An existing Tesla Coil that was manufactured from a Third Pro Project in 1996 was taken and had a second toroid added at the bottom. The second toroid was added to the secondard circuit to prove the concept that FEM is accurate and can be applied to the Tesla Coil.

4 mH Resonate Frequency 202.N Rue Page 13 of 16 3/10/2011 . Finite Element Method can accurately be used in the design process of the Tesla coil.5pF With Second Troid Inductance 36.4pF Based on the results of the modeled capacitance and measured capacitance.1 kHz Measured Capacitance 17. Once the inductance and resonate frequency of the secondary circuit is known.6 kHz Measured Capacitance 16. the effective secondary capacitance can be calculated by the following formula = The following are the results from the design.0 pF Modeled Capacitance 17.After the secondary toroid was added to the Tesla coil the secondary inductance was measured and the secondary circuit resonant frequency was determined before the toroid was added and after. Without Second Troid Inductance 36.9 pF Modeled Capacitance 16. P.4 mH Resonate Frequency 202.

the general design procedure has not changed. FEM by the results of the Tesla coil design example can be used as a tool in the design process. P. when determining the secondary capacitance. the process involved using special equations and special rules mean that only a select few engineers can solve the secondary capacitances. FEM can be confidently used in the Tesla coil process. it has been more of an art that science. FEM is an easy software program that can be used to solve non-linear problems such as the Tesla coil.5 pF without the second toroid added and 17. The purpose of this was to prove that FEM is accurate enough to be used for the design process of a Tesla Coil. The model of the Tesla coil in ElecNet showed that the effective secondary capacitance was 16. An existing Tesla Coil that was manufactured and designed in a third pro project in 1996 was taken and a bottom toroid added to the secondary circuit. Though electromagnetic specialist can solve for non linear capacitances. The modeled values compare well with the measured value of 16. A simple model of the Tesla Coil was developed using PSCAD using a power electronic switch for the spark gap. Discussion Though the Tesla coil has been around for over one hundred years.N Rue Page 14 of 16 3/10/2011 .4 pF will the second toroid added. As a result. PSCAD is a highly recognized power system modeling program. This is mainly due to the fact that the Tesla coil is mainly a hobbyist activity and the people that design them do not have a full understanding of the electrical principles behind the Tesla Coil. the model was accurate enough to determine whether or not the calculated electrical values would make the Tesla coil work.6.0 pF with the second toroid.9 pF without the second toroid and 17. As a result. transmission line coupled inductances for the primary and secondary inductor and a source which simulated the output of the step up transformer with a current limit. As a result. when compared to FEM software where anyone who has a basic knowledge in electrical engineering can use the software and get similar results.

The modeled result and measured result of the secondary capacitance of the Tesla coil was similar proving that Finite Element Method can be used with confidents in the design process. As a result. Conclusion The Tesla coil has been around for over 100 years and is mainly a hobbyist activity. the design procedure has not changed significantly as the hobbyists who build them do not fully understand the electrical principles behind the Tesla coil. As a result. P.N Rue Page 15 of 16 3/10/2011 . An existing Tesla coil that was constructed in 1996 was taken and modified by adding a second toroid to the secondary circuit. This was done to prove that FEM could be used in the design process. Finite Element Method which is a technique for solving non linear problems can be used to solve the effective secondary capacitance of a Tesla coil. determining the effective secondary capacitance has been more of an art that science. As a result of the project.7.

infolytica. Tesla HandBook.infolytica. “ElecNet”. The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design Guide and Construction. accessed 3/10/11 [6] Chapman.com/en/products/magnet/. University of Canterbury. “MagNet”. “PSCAD”. http://www. Clasical Tesla Coil Design. http://www.N Rue Page 16 of 16 3/10/2011 . M.com/en/products/elecnet/. R. References’ [1] Tilbury. 1988 [3] infolytica.cfm?. accessed 3/10/11 [4] infolytica. JHC Engineering – San Diego CA. 1996 P. accessed 3/10/11 [5] Manitoba HVDC Research Center. J H. https://pscad.com/index.8. McGraw Hill 2008 [2] Couture.

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