Monthly Archives: October 2014

Ion Ray and ilharge Gun

Ion Ray and ilharge Gun

Figure 22-1 Ion ray gun

This project shows how to build a device that pro­duces a bizarre yet interesting clcctrical phenomena that possibly may provide the propulsive forces used for space travel in the near future. A high potential source is allowed to leak off charges by being termi­nated into a sharp and pointed object. A charge emis­sion now occurs due to the repulsive force of like charges occuring at the pointed end. producing a high density of charged particles that possess mobility over a distance. The finished unit is intended for use

by the electrical physicist (see Figure 22-1) as well as for educational demonstrations, material testing, and many other applications as presented in this chapter.

Expcct to spend $75 to $100 for this useful electri­cal device. Assembly will require only basic hand tools, wiring, and soldering. The finished project must be used with caution as moderate electrical charges can be generated at a distance. The parts list for this project is shown in Table 22-1.

Test Paints and Troubleshooting Suggestions

The following are some measurements for testing the device:

• Measure 9 VDC at the TPA point and at the COM line. If ihe previous tests cannot be obtained, it is suggested to double-check all

wiring and components for correct placement. Pay attention to Ql and Q2, as they are not the same.

■ Measure 0 VDC at the TPB point and at the COM line.

• Short contact probes A and В together and now measure 8 to 9 VDC at TPB.

• If the display tube fails to ignite, double-check all the wiring and components for correct placement. Pay attention to Ql and Q2, as they are not the same.

Special Notes

Gas tubes longer than 30 inches may require a 12- volt battery pack to activate to full length.

The electronics assembly and batteries will easily fit into the often preferred Graphlex and Heiland camera flash handles. Contact the factory for facsimi­les of this hard-to-find part.

This chapter’s plans show the unit built with a 26- inch gas display tube. The system is designed to use any length of tube up to 36 inches long. The only modifications will be the length of the outer shroud tube and adding or subtracting the spacer rings. Our standard lengths of tubes are 12,26, and 36 inches.

The touch probes may be replaced by a 1 megohm adjustable pot and switch for varying the discharge length. R1 must be changed to a 47-kilo-ohm value.


The unit will work with two alkaline batteries con­nected in parallel to double the current rating for about five hours of “off and on” operation. Two lithium batteries, while more expensive, will allow eight hours of operation. The suggested nickel-cad- mium (NiCad) rechargeables are Varta #TR % for 9.8 volts. The running time for two batteries will be almost an hour before recharging.

Thirty-six-inch red neon units may require 12 volts, which is obtainable by using 8 A A cells to fully ignite the display. You may also use two AAA cells connected in a scries with the existing two 9-volt bat­teries. The wiring is shown in Figure 21-2. This approach allows fitting with the Graphlex and Hei­land handles, as were the original props. Double­check the heatsink tab for Q3.


The property of the moving, ignited plasma your lightsaber produces can be utilized to provide an indicator of direction, such as turn signals for vehi­cles, semaphore signaling, pointing devices, or an excellent safety device for nighttime jogging or walk­ing as a visible, piercing colored light is produced.

Table 21-1 Plasma lightsaber parts list


Hef # Qty. Description

Rl 5.6 meg, ‘/«-watt resistor (gr-b]-gr)

R2 IK, Vt-watt resistor (br-blk-red)

R3 2.2K, ‘A-watt resistor (red-red-red)

R4 4.7K, ‘/4-watt resistor (yel-pur-red)

R5 330-ohm, Vt-wati resistor (or-or-br)

Cl.01 mfd, 50-volt plastic capacitor

C2 10 mfd, 25-volt electrolytic capacitor

C3 .022 mfd, 250-volt plastic capacitor

C4 .1 mfd. 400-volt metal polypropylene capacitor

Ql PN2907 PNP GP transistor

Q2 PN2222 NPN CP transistor

Q3 MJE182 power tab NPN transistor



Tl Ferrite high-voltage transformer

CL 1,2 2 Battery snap connectors


HS1/SW1 Heatsink bracket and #6 X 1/4-inch sheet metal screw

BUSWIRE Three-inch piece of bus wire for connecting Tl pins

WR2 2 12-inch lengths of #24 vinyl hookup wire

ADPAPTER1NGS 3 1 Чг OD X ] hole X ’/it) Lexan washer fabrication

SHROUD 29 V2 xl OD X Vie wall Lexan or other clear or colored

plaslic tubing

SPACER 4 Vs X 3/n hole X ‘/s flexible, clear vinyl washer

CAP 1 1 -inch clear plastic cap

CAP2 1 Ve-inch black plastic cap with l-inch hole

CAP3 1 Vs-inch black plastic cap

PROBE 2 2-Х ‘/4-inch strips of adhesive, soldcrable, metallic tape

НЛ1 10 Чг – X 15/s-inch black plastic handle

INSERT 3/e – X 3/e-inch Tygon tubing

#NE26 available in “phaser" green, “photon” blue, *’starfire“ purple or “neon" red

NE26 26-inch x 10-millimeter special prepared plasma tube

Test Paints and Troubleshooting Suggestions

Mechanical Assembly Steps 3

To begin the project assembly, follow these steps:

1. Cut a 29 ‘/2-inch length of 1-inch OD plastic tube for the shroud, as shown in Figure 21-6.

Even up and remove sharp edges from the 4.

ends. A red transparent tube greatly enhances the display when using red neon gas.

2. Fabricate four flexible spacer rings from a ^ sheet of clear, flexible Va-inch vinyl, as shown

in Figure 21-6. These spacers position the neon tube, NE26, inside the plastic shroud and offer some shock protection in case the units

are mishandled. The center holes should be a snug fit to the neon with the outer diameter providing reasonable friction to the inner walb of the shroud tube. These spacer rings should be positioned on the NE26 display tube as shown. Note that other materials may be used for this part.

Fabricate three adapter rings as shown in Fig­ure 21-6. The outside diameter must fit snugly into handle HA1. A 1-inch hole must be in the true center and fit snugly around the shroud. These are positioned and glued to the shroud tube, as shown in Figure 21-5.

Fabricate CAP2 with a 1-inch center hole and position it on the shroud assembly as shown in Figure 21-5. It should abut closely to the for­ward adapter ring.

Fabricate handle HA1 from a 10-inch-long piece of 1 %- X ‘/іб-inch rigid, wall polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or an equivalent material. Place two, small ‘/it-inch holes as shown in Figure 21-5 for contact probe leads. Note that

ADAPTER Rings (3)

Note the project sHows a 24" plasma display blade You may use up lo a 36" display blade but must increase the shroud by an additional 12” and add 2 more spacers. All other components will support this option. All display plasma blades are available from www. amazingl .com

From Figure 21-3

A12" blade is available to make a plasma dagger

Figure 21-6 Assembly of display tube, shroud, and spacers

Mechanical Assembly Steps 3

Mechanical Assembly Steps 3

Figure 21-7 Plasma lighlxaher filial view

Ihe position is not critical and can be placed to suit your preference.

6. Insert the NE26 tube assembly (see Figure 21- 6) with spacer rings along with the assembly board into the shroud as shown. It may help to moisten the inner walls of the shroud by breathing into one end and quickly inserting the neon tube assembly. You may also use a mist bottle. Work gloves should be used to avoid injury in case ot breakage.

7. Insert the above assembly into handle HA1 with the forward adapter ring recessed into the handle approximately 4a of an inch (see Figure 21-5). You may glue it in place or leave it as is for disassembly. Slide CAP2 into place as shown. Please note that it may take consid­erable force as the fit is tight and will not nor­mally need gluing.

8. Using extreme patience and your own ingenu­ity. attempt to thread the probe wires through the holes in HA1, as shown in Figure 21-5. Sandwich the stripped ends to the handle with small pieces of metallic tape as shown. Note that electrical contact is made to the metallic probes by this sandwiching action. Cut the pads to shape for appearance using an x-acto knife.

9. Insert two fresh, standard У-volt alkaline or lithium batteries into CL1 and two battery snaps into the handle. Obtain some foam rub­ber and use some pieces to hold the batteries in place. Secure the end with the CAP3 cap. Test the unit by touching the probes and ver­ify that the correct operation occurs. Verify the heatsink is not too hot to touch.

10. Finally, assemble everything as shown (see Figure 21-7) by attaching the caps into place along with any labels or decals. Now go forth, have fun. and may the force be with you.

Construction 5teps

Figure 21-3 shows the foil traces for those wanting to do their own PCB. To begin construction, follow these steps:

Construction 5teps

This view is helpful for those who want to design their own layout on a vector or perforated circuit board. Component leads may be used for most routing traces with heavier leads for the wider traces.

Figure 21-3 X-ray view showing foil traces and pads

1. Lay out and identify all the parts and pieces, and check them wilh the parts list. Note that some parts may sometimes vary in value. This

Construction 5teps

Figure 21-4 View showing parts placement on board

is acceptable as all components are 10 to 20 percent tolerant unless otherwise noted.

2. Identify the pins on the base of transformer Tl, as shown in Figure 21-4.

3. Insert components into PCB PCPF5 as shown in Figure 21 -4. Note to leave at least 4n to 4a of an inch of lead between the actual compo­

nents and the surface of the board. Also notice the polarity on C2 and the proper position of transistors Ql and Q3. Solder the connections and cut away the excess leads. Connect the Tl transformer using short pieces of bus wire and secure it to the board using some tape. Then attach the leads for B1 and B2. Note these leads are strain relieved by passing through

the holes on the foil side of the board. Solder 11-inch leads for contact pads locatcd on the enclosure tube. These may be shortened later. Check for accuracy, the quality of solder joints, potential shorts, and so on.

4 Obiain a 12- to 36-inch neon tube, NE26, as shown in Figure 21-5. Note that the neon tube is shown utilizing only one internal electrode. An external electrode consisting of a piece of metallic tape wrapped around the tube end will also work. The internal electrode approach seems to work slightly better as the input impedance of the feedpoint is obviously noureactive, now being only resistive.

Note that the assembly of the tube is beyond most hobbyists and probably should be obtained as indicated on the parts list. Solder the tube to the assembly board as shown in Figure 21-5 and secure it with some room tem­perature vulcanizing (RTV) silicon rubber. Insert a piece of plastic vinyl tubing between the tube and the PCB to protect the tube from hitting the assembly board and possibly frac­turing.

5. Connect two У-volt batteries or a 9-volt power converter. Note that batteries are connected in a parallel way to supply more current and consequently last longer.

6. You may verify the circuitry by connecting a current meter in series with the batteries and note it reading zero. Hirn the meter range down a step at a time to 50 micro-amps or the lowest range. The meter should still read zero.

Note that any current flow in this test will wear down the battery over a period of time, indicating transistor leakage or a wiring error.

The battery will drain down even if the saber is not in use.

7. Now set the meter range to read 300 to 400 milliamperes and reverse if necessary. Make contact between the pads’ and + leads.

Note that the neon tube fully ignites and the current meter indicates around 300 mil – i

liamperes. Please refer to the test points in

Figure 21-2 if you experience difficulty. These are explained in the supplementary lest points section.

8. Attempt to make contact between these points using the resistance of your finger and verify the partial ignition of the neon tube.

Dampen your finger if the skin is dry. This ver­ifies the proper operation of the electronics. A

Construction 5teps

Figure 21-5 X-rav view of handle innards

dry hand may require a tighter grip, whereas a damp hand requires only a light touch to achieve full plasma ignition.

Circuit Theory

The system utilizes a high-frequency, high-voltage plasma power source that requires only one electrode or an external capacitive electrode for input to the plasma display discharge tube (see Figure 21-2). The external capacitive effect greatly reduces the cost of producing this plasma tube, as no internal electrode or glass-to-metal seals are required. Also eliminated are any grounds or electrical returns required in con­ventional systems.

Ignition of the plasma discharge appears to occur, extending outwardly into space without a return con­nection. In actuality, high-frequency electrical cur­rents flow through the capacitive reactance of the plasma tube with the surroundings where the glass enclosure acts as the dielectric between the two. The user, by hand contact with the control pads, forms the other plate of this virtual capacitor.

The circuit consists of transistor Q3 connected as a Hartly-type oscillator where its collector is in a series

Circuit Theory

It may be necessary to reduce the value of R2 to 100k for decreasing the touch sensitivity. This will depend on humidity, skin resistance, end other factors.

Wava shape at TPC when connected to a 26” red neon tube fully lit.

It is connected to a 9-volt source and drawing 4 amps Note input was adjusted to 7 volts before display started to break from end

T1 transformer winding data

Output. 1350 turns

Primary. 10 turns

Feedback 10 turns

You may use two parallel connected 9-volt batteries for all display tubes. A 12-volt battery pack with Є AA cells may also be used for a brighter display.

Figure 21-2 Plasma lightsaber schematic

with the primary winding, PR1, of transformer Tl and is energized by batteries B1 and B2.The drive signal to its base is obtained by a feedback winding (FB) properly phased to allow oscillation to take place.

The base current is limited by resistor R4 and biased into conduction by resistor R3. Capacitor C3 speeds up the switching times. The oscillations produced are at a frequency of approximately 100 kHz. This is usu­ally determined by the resonant frequency of Tl and tank capacitor C4.

The output of Q3 is controlled via the conduc­tance of pass transistor Q2 by biasing its base with a ramp signal from transistor Ql. C2 bypasses any high-frequency switching currents to the common line of the circuit. This approach provides a positively defined state between the energized and denergized plasma, hence its lit display length.

The current through Q2 and therefore the power to Q3 is controlled by the DC ramp amplifier Ql. The Ql transistor is now controlled when a base current flows through resistor R2.This occurs when the user’s fingers simultaneously touch the two external pad contacts biasing Ql to a point dependent on the user’s contact resistance. This effect produces the variable current ramp that controls the current through pass transistor Q2, hence controlling the out­put of Q3. No off/on switch is necessary since total power is controlled by the user’s finger contact, a capacitor Cl bypasses any external signals that may cause premature operation, and R1 controls the sen­sitivity range of the necessary contact resistance for full ignition as well as linearity.


The device can be built in two parts, consisting of the display and power sections. These are easily sepa­rated for convenience should the plasma display dis­charge tube become broken or damaged. Also, we must consider the option of using display tubes with other gases, producing different colorful effects.

Tlie display section of the device can consist of a 12- to 36-inch length ot small-diameter neon or another gas tube. Only one electrode is necessary on the display lube, thus eliminating unnecessary costs. This internal gas tube is centered in a clear or colored plastic tube that serves for protection from breakage and provides a more enhanced visual effect due to its diffusive, refractive, and diffractive optical properties.