Low(er) Voltage Nixies

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4 months 4 weeks ago #10408 by rmcrae
Before anyone says anything, yes I know this is a bit of an oxymoron and am aware that most if not all nixies operate efficiently at 170v but I am curious--what are some of the lower voltages you have run your tubes successfully at. I'm looking into dot indicator nixies and am wondering if there are any that can operate at a lower voltages.

OR

I would love recommendations on what a good, compact power source for a portable single tube set up may look like.

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4 months 4 weeks ago - 4 months 4 weeks ago #10409 by judge
Replied by judge on topic Low(er) Voltage Nixies
You can often use a strike voltage of around 10 volts above maintenance voltage. There are a couple of issues that may arise:
  1. The nixie may not light in low light conditions. Nixies require some free ions for the glow to get started, these free ions are often created by photons striking the gas mixture. It seems that the higher the strike voltage you use, the fewer free ions are needed.
  2. Differences between tubes will be more obvious

Some types of tube are more susceptible to these issues than others. I have successfully driven IN-18 and ZM1232 at 155V - I haven't really tried others. You can read about a one-tube device I built here . It uses a strike voltage of 155V - I also built the power supply for that.

There are a few nixie tubes that are designed to run at unusually low voltages, e.g. the B4021 have a strike voltage of around 120V. Also, I think that many of the dot indicators have low strike voltage requirements too.

Finally, one approach to the issue of lighting a nixie tube with a low voltage is to actually hit the tube with a large initial voltage and drop it to something just higher than the maintenance voltage after a few milliseconds.
Last edit: 4 months 4 weeks ago by judge.

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4 months 4 weeks ago - 4 months 4 weeks ago #10410 by Torsten Lang
Replied by Torsten Lang on topic Low(er) Voltage Nixies

rmcrae wrote: Before anyone says anything, yes I know this is a bit of an oxymoron and am aware that most if not all nixies operate efficiently at 170v but I am curious--what are some of the lower voltages you have run your tubes successfully at. I'm looking into dot indicator nixies and am wondering if there are any that can operate at a lower voltages.

OR

I would love recommendations on what a good, compact power source for a portable single tube set up may look like.

Hi mcrae,
keep in mind that you need some headroom for various reasons. When a tube is new it will have an ignition voltage of not much more than the sustain voltage. But these parts are ageing. Furthermore, the glow discharge is controlled by current, not voltage. To use a simple circuitry you need a certain difference between sustain voltage and supply voltage, the lower the difference is the more influence on the current any variation of these will have.

170V seems to be a good tradeoff between efficiency and reliability/stability with a simple driver stage.

I own one of the otherwise very nicely designed "Blue Dream" clocks from Dieter W├Ąchter. IMHO a major design flaw is that he connected two colon neon lamps in series to use smaller resistors. The neon lamps have lower ignition and sustain voltages (about 50V/90V) but you can already see the problem with a 170V supply voltage. When the lamps were new the ignition voltages were lower and everything was working. After about half a year the neon lamps aged enough so that the sum of the ignition voltages was above 170V - and the thing started failing.

This is why I would strongly recommend to stick to the recommendations of the manufacturers...

Regards,
Torsten
Last edit: 4 months 4 weeks ago by Torsten Lang.

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4 months 3 weeks ago #10411 by Ty_Eeberfest
Replied by Ty_Eeberfest on topic Low(er) Voltage Nixies
I can't add much to the good advice already posted above. If you were to tell us more about what you seek to accomplish, more detailed and specific advice might be possible,

A portable power source for a single tube would most likely, IMO, be just a scaled down version of a normal Nixie HV supply design. Instead of using 5v from a USB port or 12v form and external supply as input I'd probably go with a couple small lithium ion cells in series as a source of 8-ish volts. Then make a small boost converter circuit based around one of the many available boost converter control chips (MAX-1771 comes to mind but may be overkill for a single tube supply).

You might try searching the 'net to see if there are any schematics available for the various Nixie wrist watches people have made. They're getting 170V at enough current for 2 or 4 small tubes from a small battery.

Look into it later when the dust is clearing off the crater.

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