January 1953 QST
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Voltage multipliers were found in nearly
every form of battery-powered electronics in the days of vacuum tubes, because of
the 100-volt or more requirement for plate voltages. Primary batteries in 30, 45,
and 67½ volt sizes were produced by Eveready, Burgess, and a few other companies
in order to help simplify biasing circuits. They were bulky and heavy, often comprising
a significant portion of the assembly's volume. Heavy transformers contributed mightily
to the weight and size as well.
Exell still manufactures 30, 45, and 67½ V
batteries both for the few products that are still designed to use them, and for
vintage radio owners. Most circuits that need higher DC voltages these days use
DC-DC converters, many of which are ICs that need only a small external inductor
(not a transformer).
A Brief Review of Transformerless Power Systems
By Gabriel P. Rumble, EX-W5BBB
Voltage-multiplying circuits, that is, power-supply circuits in which an a.c.
voltage is changed to a higher d.c. voltage, have their widest application at the
present time in television receiver circuits. However, frequent use is made of such
circuits in ham gear where simplicity and light weight are prime considerations.
In Fig. 1, a condenser and rectifier in series are connected across a source
of alternating voltage.
Fig. 1 - In A the condenser is being charged. In B the voltage
between points X and Y is essentially twice the peak value of the applied a.c. voltage.
Fig. 2 - A practical half-wave voltage-doubling circuit.
Fig. 3 - A full-wave voltage-doubling circuit.
Fig. 4 - Sections may be added to the voltage-doubling circuit
to obtain any desired multiplication. The circuit shown at right will deliver an
output voltage approximately equal to five times the peak value of the applied a.c.
voltage at the input.
Fig. 5 - (A) Voltage tripler. (B) Voltage quadrupler.
When the polarity of the source is as shown in Fig. 1A, the rectifier will
conduct and the condenser will become charged to the peak value of the a.c. voltage.
When the source voltage reverses polarity, the rectifier will not conduct, but the
polarities of the condenser charge and the source voltage will be such as to be
additive. Therefore, when the source voltage reaches its peak value on this second
half of the cycle, the voltage between points X and Y will be twice the peak value
of the source voltage. This doubled voltage can be conducted through an additional
rectifier, as shown in Fig. 2, to charge a second condenser to deliver twice
the peak value of the source voltage to the load. Thus we have a circuit by which
a voltage higher than the source voltage can be obtained without the use of a transformer.
The circuit of Fig. 2 is called a voltage-doubler circuit. It should be noted
that no current flows from the input circuit to the load during that portion of
the cycle when the first condenser, C1, is being charged, because the
polarity existing at that time is such as to make the rectifier, D2,
nonconducting. Therefore, the circuit is a half-wave rectifier. However, the discharging
of the condensers has a filtering action that smooths out the pulsations before
reaching the load. The ripple voltage appearing across the load will depend on the
capacitance of the condensers and the value of the load resistance, becoming smaller
with an increase in each. For many applications, no further filtering is necessary.
Capacitances of 40 μfd. are commonly used throughout voltage-multiplying circuits.
C1 should have a voltage rating at least equal to the peak value of the
source voltage; C2 twice this value.
When more than a light load is placed across the output terminals of the circuit
of Fig. 2, the output voltage sags sadly. Regulation is a function of condenser
capacitance and rectifier resistance, improving with an increase in capacitance
and a decrease in resistance. An advantage of this circuit is that one side of the
load circuit may be grounded directly.
Improvement in regulation and a reduction in the output ripple can be obtained
by using a voltage-doubler circuit in which full-wave rectification takes place.
Such a circuit is shown in Fig. 3. On one alternation (half cycle) one condenser
is charged, while on the other alternation the other condenser is charged; hence
full-wave rectification. The two charged condensers are in series across the load;
hence voltage doubling. A disadvantage of this circuit in some applications is that
neither side of the load circuit may be grounded. Both C1 and C2
should have a voltage rating at least equal to the peak value of the a.c. input
The principle of voltage multiplication, that is, the charging up of a condenser
through a rectifier during one alternation and the addition of the condenser charge
to the line voltage on the other alternation can be extended beyond doubling to
tripling, quadrupling and, indeed, to any number of stages. Fig. 4 shows a
multiplier circuit having five sections. You will notice that the first two sections
of this circuit are similar to the doubling circuit of Fig. 2. The condenser,
C5, will be charged up to five times the peak voltage of the a.c. input
voltage. To obtain the desired output voltage, it is necessary merely to employ
the appropriate number of sections. E is the peak value of the applied input voltage.
The condensers should have a voltage rating at least equal to this peak voltage
times the number indicated in each section. The voltage regulation of such an arrangement
gets worse as stages are added. For this reason, the condenser capacitances should
be as large as practicable. At first glance, one might suspect that the inverse
peak voltage across the rectifier increases with each stage, but such is not the
case. Under no load, the peak inverse voltage across each rectifier is the same,
i.e., twice the peak value of the a.c. input voltage. No matter how many stages,
this type of circuit always gives half-wave rectification. As indicated, one side
of the load circuit may be grounded.
When tripling or quadrupling, better voltage regulation will be obtained with
the circuits of Fig. 5. As with the full-wave doubler circuit, however, neither
side of the load circuit can be grounded directly. In the tripler circuit of A,
C1 and C3 should have a voltage rating at least equal to the
peak value of the a.c. source voltage, while the minimum voltage rating for C2
should be twice this value. In the quadrupler circuit of B, C1 and C4
should be rated for the peak of the source voltage and C2 and C3
for double this value.
From an examination of these circuits, it will become evident that they are most
practical for use with selenium or other types of rectifiers requiring no heated
filament. The number of filament transformers will usually prohibit the use of vacuum-tube
rectifiers. Since the capacitances required are large, such circuits are normally
considered economically attractive when the output voltage is limited within the
voltage ratings of electrolytic condensers.
Posted December 27, 2019
(updated from original post on 9/22/2016)