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HomeMathConstructing a Pulse-Forming Community with the Wolfram Language—Wolfram Weblog

Constructing a Pulse-Forming Community with the Wolfram Language—Wolfram Weblog

In lots of physics experiments, a voltage or present is desired that rapidly rises to a selected worth, stays there for a length of time after which declines quickly, giving the so-called flat-top profile or sq. wave.

© RP Photonics Consulting AG, 2022. All rights reserved.

This has a number of purposes in lots of physics- and electrical engineering–associated methods, together with radar, kicker magnets for accelerators and actually any time a pulsed uniform voltage or present is required. In my case, I wanted this functionality for a steel vapor vacuum arc plasma supply that I’m utilizing to check the properties of metallic plasmas in robust magnetic fields.

On this weblog submit, I’ll stroll you thru some pulse-forming community concept together with how I used the Wolfram Language to rapidly and simply design an economical pulse-forming community through the use of circuit concept, the interactive Manipulate operate and knowledge from an electronics vendor to discover sensible design choices. This may also exhibit the Amount operate within the Wolfram Language, which has confirmed useful and straightforward to make use of.

Capacitors Discharging

When folks think about pulsed-power purposes, the pure and straightforward resolution that involves thoughts is to attach a capacitor in collection with the load, cost it after which discharge it. Assuming the capacitor’s inductance and collection resistance are low, a big present will be created, however that present will quickly (and exponentially) decay.

Current decay

What will we do to “flatten” the height? Rising the resistance or capacitance will stretch the earlier determine horizontally or vertically, however various the resistance or capacitance is not going to alter the form of the discharge curve.

It’s value stating that there’s one (conceptually) easy resolution right here: to make use of a really, very massive capacitor. This capacitor will discharge solely a minor fraction of its saved vitality over the specified pulse width and use a swap to disconnect the circuit after the specified length.

What about Utilizing a Swap?

Whereas this certainly would produce a really flat profile, it requires capacitances so massive that solely electrolytic double-layer capacitors (additionally referred to as supercapacitors) would work. Supercapacitors typically have most voltages of round 2.7 V, requiring numerous them in collection to stand up to a bigger voltage. Inserting capacitors in collection provides the respective equal collection resistance (ESR) of every capacitor in addition to their inductances, typically severely limiting the height present.

Semiconductor switches are additionally restricted of their means to cease flowing currents, though top-of-the-line transistors, just like the IXTN660N04T4 (~$21), can swap round 700 A at roughly 40 V. Which will work for some purposes like an electromagnet system that requires modest voltages however excessive currents, however for many purposes, this shall be prohibitively costly and nonetheless have poor efficiency.

The RLC Circuit

Getting again to the query “How will we ‘flatten’ the height of a capacitor’s discharge curve?”, the reply is solely to make use of inductors. Many inductors are merely wound coils of wire, and inductors have a tendency to withstand the change in present by way of them. They do that by storing {the electrical} vitality within the type of a magnetic discipline. That is generally in comparison with a capacitor, which shops electrical vitality in {an electrical} discipline.

Probably the most well-known and essential circuits of all time is the resistor–inductor–capacitor (RLC) circuit. If the resistance, inductance and capacitance are tuned correctly, you will get resonant habits during which the capacitor and inductor are alternately charging and discharging.

Wolfram|Alpha has some highly effective performance that simulates an RLC circuit and computes its properties:

Wolfram|Alpha RLC circuit properties

Fourier Sequence

This sinusoidal charge-discharge curve is admittedly essential and really helpful to what we’re constructing as much as. In arithmetic, you will have heard of a Fourier collection, the thought behind which is that any harmonic operate will be intently approximated by a collection of superimposed sinusoidal capabilities.

The heartbeat form we are attempting to generate is a sq. wave, and subsequently we will use the Fourier collection deconstruction of a sq. wave (or a minimum of the primary N phrases) to find out numerous RLC circuits in collection that approximate a sq. wave when discharged:

RLC circuits approximate a square wave

The Faults in Our Fourier Sequence

One essential notice is that utilizing the Fourier collection approximation to provide an ideal sq. wave has one critical draw back: the Gibbs phenomenon, which roughly says that the perimeters of the approximation could have important overshoot, and including extra phrases doesn’t enhance this challenge. Some vivid physicist decided that trying on the Fourier collection of a trapezoidal reasonably than a sq. wave suitably solved these points.

Lastly! Pulse-Forming Networks

All proper, in order that’s in all probability sufficient concept. To recap, merely discharging a capacitor right into a resistive load will give us a pointy rise with exponential decay, and including an inductor will flip that discharge curve right into a sinusoidal form. Superimposing a number of sinusoidal discharges can create a reasonably good approximation to a great “sq.” discharge curve.

How ought to we prepare these capacitors and inductors? Because it seems, there are a variety of completely different types of pulse-forming networks, normally recognized by a letter. Many of those have a selected benefit; for instance, the sort D pulse-forming community makes use of capacitors of similar capacitance:

Five types of pulse-forming networks
© McGraw Hill, 1948. All rights reserved.

Given these variations, you’ll have to contemplate your software in nice element to determine which one is finest, and that normally comes right down to a choice of practicality (i.e. value and ease of development).

Practicalities of Constructing a Pulse-Forming Community

Relying on the voltage, present, rise time and pulse-width necessities of a selected software, difficulties will be present in numerous locations. For quick rise occasions, the problem could also be switching (a subject outdoors the scope of this weblog), and even the inductance of the capacitors. For top-voltage purposes involving excessive cost switch, discovering appropriate capacitors could also be very troublesome and costly. It actually relies on the appliance in addition to accessible capacitor and switching know-how. One final notice: for many sensible functions, there are few advantages to utilizing greater than 5 sections.

Designing a Specific Pulse-Forming Community

For the rest of the submit, we’ll discuss pulse-forming networks within the context of a selected challenge: an improve I’m making to a steel vapor vacuum arc plasma supply I constructed to check varied facets of steel plasmas.

For this software, the switching is carried out by the initiation of a vacuum arc by a Marx generator—in case you’d like an article about Marx turbines, point out it within the feedback—so switching will not be a difficulty. The primary design concerns can be that there ought to be as quick an increase time as attainable; that the present ought to exceed 100 A all through the heartbeat; and that the homogeneity ought to be moderately excessive. The voltage is modest—not more than 800 V—and plenty of movie capacitors exist that may satiate the specified low ESR and equal collection inductance (ESL) necessities.

The most important design problem would be the correct association and selection of capacitors and inductors (essentially a tradeoff between complexity, value and efficiency), and the foremost implementation problem shall be in making the inductors. Commercially accessible inductors that may deal with the anticipated peak currents—presumably in extra of a kiloampere—are prohibitively costly, however making a big coil of thick wire will produce an inductor with high-peak current-handling capabilities on a finances, as long as the wanted inductance is low. The specified rise time for this software is lower than 500 ns and the heartbeat width, counted because the interval the place the present exceeds 100 A, is desired to be round 500 ms.

One ultimate caveat: a short time in the past, I picked up two large energy movie capacitors in an public sale. They’re individually in a position to ship a surge present of over 20,000 A, and for value causes, I’d like to make use of them reasonably than get all-new capacitors.

Giant power film capacitor

A Notice about DIY Pulse-Forming Networks

So far as I’m conscious, there’s solely one report on the web of somebody making a DIY pulse-forming community to assemble an beginner radar meeting.

Whereas the appliance thought of right here will not be too complicated, there are a lot of circumstances, together with very quick rise occasions, massive cost switch and excessive voltages, that make skilled pulse-forming community design difficult. That being mentioned, there’s no cause why they’re any harder to construct than varied different resonant circuits.

A phrase of warning: any of the issues mentioned right here might be probably harmful if mishandled, so don’t mess around with excessive voltage. The voltages mentioned listed below are probably deadly and will solely be dealt with by competent, cautious and safety-aware folks.

The Sort B Pulse-Forming Community

When contemplating the aforementioned necessities, the pure first alternative is the sort B pulse-forming community. It’s sometimes the selection once you don’t need/want mutual inductance between the varied inductors, and it has the neat function of getting two capacitors (the leftmost ones) which have moderately comparable capacitances, the place my two 250 µF capacitors may go:

Type B pulse-forming network
© McGraw Hill, 1948. All rights reserved.

That is the place the primary problem is encountered: capacitors are sometimes rated at a selected granular capacitance: 250 µF, for instance, not 263 µF. There are capacitors which have odd capacitances, however they’re sufficiently uncommon that now we have to design across the accessible capacitances:

Sorting capacitors by capacitance

This diagram reveals the best ratios of the capacitors, and proper off the bat it doesn’t look to be too dangerous of a match. The center capacitor would must be 300 µF, adopted by 350 µF and 800 µF, respectively, however it’s not that off. When you wished to get actually exact values, you can use a number of capacitors in parallel to type an equal capacitor of some fractionally greater worth, however for this challenge you’ll quickly see why that introduces unreasonable complexity and price.

So how would this circuit carry out? When utilizing the earlier diagram together with recognized load parameters, you get this circuit I simulated utilizing Falstad:

Simulated circuit

When charged and discharged, it produces the next discharge sample:

Discharge pattern

Whereas there’s good homogeneity, there are 4 downsides to this association:

  1. The rise time is simply too gradual, on the order of a number of thousand nanoseconds.
  2. The complexity is excessive, involving 5 massive capacitors and 5 customized inductors.
  3. The rise in saved vitality over the previous system (straight discharge of the two × 250 µF capacitors into load) is just about 4 occasions as a lot.
  4. The price is excessive for what it’s conducting, round $200 only for the capacitors (earlier than tax and transport).

Rethinking the Configuration, Computationally

Now we will get into the true “meat” of this weblog: an attention-grabbing electrical engineering downside that’s each theoretical and sensible. Can the Wolfram Language assist us make an economical choice?

To do that, let’s get some real-world knowledge concerning the worth and functionality of present capacitors. Then we will create a circuit simulator for these pulse-forming networks to offer us some key details about the efficiency, value and complexity of a circuit. Then we will have it simulate all attainable circuits (inside cause) and provides us the top-ranked ones.

Simpler mentioned than achieved, however it’s a pleasant computational strategy and would possibly give us an surprising consequence. It will be too tedious to undergo and attempt to determine this out manually, however it’s going to doubtless take a contemporary processor seconds or minutes to step by way of all of the permutations.

Getting Knowledge about Capacitors

I’ve discovered that the web electronics distributor Digi-Key has among the finest search instruments, and so they assist you to obtain massive tables of information about their merchandise. I went to their web page on movie capacitors and filtered out these with a most working voltage beneath 800 V, in addition to capacitors with a capacitance beneath 500 µF. I then downloaded a CSV file of the remaining 151 capacitors.

Importing and Cleansing the Capacitor Knowledge

The most effective however hardly ever talked about facets of the Wolfram Language is that it’s nice for scraping and homogenizing knowledge. That’ll be useful as we import the uncooked capacitor knowledge and clear it up:


Listed here are the fields and the primary capacitor:


Let’s first filter out capacitors that aren’t in inventory or require greater than a four-minimum order amount:


Solely 46 capacitors are left. What about worth? If a capacitor is simply too costly, we shouldn’t think about it:

Capacitor cost histogram

Let’s think about capacitors with a worth under $125 as a result of we’ll in all probability want two or three of them:


As a ultimate step to pare down the record of capacitors, let’s permit just one capacitor per capacitance class. The ESR of all of those choices is kind of low, so it’s not an essential issue:


Lastly, let’s eliminate the info we don’t actually care about and get our ultimate dataset:


An attention-grabbing strategy to visualize the associated fee effectiveness of those capacitors is to look at their capacitance per greenback. On this respect, one capacitor specifically has a big benefit: the B25690A0128K903 affords 1200 µF for less than $60.76:

Capacitor cost versus capacitance chart

Pulse-Forming Community Configuration

As a way to optimize for complexity and price, we’re going to contemplate a two-section sort B pulse-forming community, with one caveat: to get very quick rise occasions, the 2 250 µF capacitors shall be connected in collection with the load together with a current-limiting resistor. The circuit diagram seems like this:

Circuit diagram

The load is on the left, related by way of a current-limiting resistor (500 MOhms) to the 2 250 µF capacitors I have already got. On the fitting is the behemoth 1200 µF capacitor (that we established as probably the most value efficient), together with a 130 MOhm current-limiting resistor and 250 µH inductor, which shapes the rise of the heartbeat. When discharged, this circuit produces the next output over one millisecond:

Current rise over one millisecond

Is that this a sq. wave? Probably not, however it retains the present at a single worth (510 A) +/– 2.5% for one millisecond; check out the present rise:

Current rise output

The present rises to the central worth in beneath 180 ns. And this configuration prices all of $61… I believe now we have a winner.

Making a Customized Pulse Inductor

The very last thing we’ll must do is design a customized inductor. The design we discovered requires a 250 µH inductor, and we’d prefer it to have the ability to deal with some very critical present (1 kA+) for 30 ms, with a view to have some security margin. Taking a look at an American wire gauge (AWG) chart, we will see that any thick copper wire above 8 gauge will do:

Wire gauge chart

I’ve some quick spare lengths of #0 AWG wire, in order that’s what I’ll be utilizing to make this tradition pulse inductor.

At its core, an inductor is mostly a coil of wire. There are publicly accessible formulation to calculate the inductance of a coil of wire, and we will use them to determine find out how to make a 250 µH inductor. Wolfram|Alpha has a function that permits you to calculate the inductance of a coil of wire:

Wolfram|Alpha RLC circuit properties

After some enjoying with it, we will get the parameters wanted for a coil to provide the required inductance. The tip consequence seems like this:

Wire coil

Start Your Personal Computational Journey

I hope you loved this submit. And as for my experiment to check the properties of metallic plasmas in robust magnetic fields that required a pulse-forming community? The outcomes had been primarily visible spectra of the metallic plasmas and measurements of their helical paths, which might have uncommon instabilities and self-defocusing as a result of collisions. The heartbeat-forming community produced a fairly homogeneous stream of plasma stream that lowered noise and uncertainty within the experiment.

I believe pulse-forming community design is attention-grabbing due to the union of mathematical concept, physics and electrical engineering. The computational strategy to discovering optimum electrical parts is highly effective, and I’ve used it typically in different scientific initiatives.

For individuals who have an interest, listed below are hyperlinks to 2 useful websites I used for this challenge:

  • Falstad—an incredible (free) circuit simulation instrument
  • Digi-Key—an electronics parts distributor with nice part knowledge


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