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Let me begin by saying what a trigatron is not. A trigatron is a high current, high power, high voltage spark-gap switch. You use a trigatron when you are switching several thousand volts at several thousand amps. You use a trigatron when you've exploded and caught fire to every other switching device or semiconductor known to man. So you might think that a trigatron would not be used in a whole lot of situations, well you are right. But, if you are among the insane or just an idiot like me you might just need one. You might need a trigatron if you are wanting to shrink quarters, or launch a disc into space, or produce an EMF so large that it shuts down a block's worth of integrated circuits and other electronic goods. You might want a trigatron to explode things with a few kJ of capacitor bank energy. You might want one to see what items in your refrigerator can sustain a few mega-watts of power. You might want a trigatron if you have a capacitor the size of a dog house. But you also just might want one because they are cool and have the phrase 'tron' in them. Do you have a trigatron, well I do..

How does it work?

The trigatron is a three electrode spark-gap switch. Two of the electrodes are for the switching paths, the third is for the trigger transformer. The two switching electrodes are facing each other and the trigger electrode sticks right in the middle of the two. The trigger transformer generates a high voltage pulse that ionizes a thin path of gas between the two switching electrodes. This ion trail provides a low resistance path for the main current to pass through.

Construction Techniques

Since the voltage and current to be switched is quite high, electrode spacing and electrode material are important. The spacing between the two switching electrodes much be such that arc-over does not occur without the trigger spark. The trigger spark voltage much be sufficient to bridge an arc to both electrodes simultaneously, typically significantly greater than switching voltage. The switching electrodes are going to take a serious beating and will eventually be vaporized. So the design needs to incorporate adjustable spark gap distances and easy replacement of the electrodes. Also when this sucker switches it's gonna sound like bat-man taking a Holly bat-crap, so wear some ear protection and/or make a good sound-tight housing for your trigatron.

Also beware that the trigatron will stop conducting if the remaining voltage on the switching electrodes is not sufficient to keep the path ionized. This means that after the trigatron fires, there may be SUBSTAINTIAL charge remaining on the capacitor bank or whatever is begin switched, so don't be sticking your tongue on the electrodes.

Last updated: 05/23/04
Copyright 2004, Greg Miller