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A spark gap consists of an arrangement of two conducting electrodes

separated by a gap usually filled with a gas such as air, designed to allow an electric spark to pass between the conductors. When the voltage difference between the conductors exceeds the gap's breakdown voltage, a spark forms, ionizing the gas and drastically reducing its electrical resistance.

The breakdown voltage of an insulator is the minimum

voltage that causes a portion of an insulator to become electrically conductive. Ionization is the process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or ions.

David Hughes, a British scientist was discovered partially by

accident the spark gap transmitter when he made several improvements to the wired telegraph but he never published his findings. Heinrich Hertz to produce his own spark gap transmitter and receiver in 1886. Hertz also verified that the spark gap produced electromagnetic waves. Nikola Tesla further improved the technology by devising a transmission and receiving system that could be roughly tuned. By 1895, Guglielmo Marconi was able to transmit a signal and receive it almost a mile away. Marconi was able to establish a successful wireless telegraph company, and wireless telegraphy took off from there, with constantly improving technologies and distance.

How spark gap works : Spark Plug

It forces electricity to arc across a gap, just

like a bolt of lightning. Voltage at the spark plug can be anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 volts. Spark plugs use a ceramic insert to isolate the high voltage at the electrode, ensuring that the spark happens at the tip of the electrode and not anywhere else on the plug.

How spark gap works : Tesla coil

Ignition devices
Radio transmitters Spark gaps as protective devices Sphere gap for voltage measurement Power-switching devices Visual entertainment


What is thyratrons?

A gas filled tube used as a switch for high electrical energy and controlled rectifier. Typically controlled gas rectifier
What type of gas were filled in?

Mercury vapor, xenon, neon and hydrogen


Divided into three phases: Triggering and commutation (closure) Steady-state conduction Recovery (opening)

Triggering & Commutation

Suitable +ve triggering pulse of energy is applied to the grid, electrons plasma forms in the grid cathode region and cause breakdown in high voltage region between the grid and anode.

This begin the thyratrons switching process. The plasma formed in grid And anode diffuses back through the grid into the grid-cathode space avalanche theory Anode delay time : 100 -200ns

Steady State Condition

A typical hydrogen thyratron will conduct with nearly

constant voltage drop on the order of 100V regardless of the current through the tube

Recovery (Opening)
The gap reopen via the ion diffusion to the tube inner

walls and electrode surface. Ion will recombine with electrons. Time taken : 30-150s Factors affecting time :
Tube type, gas filled, fill pressure

Gas Laser Radiotherapy devices Particle accelerators Controlling electromechanical relays UHF Television Transmitters High voltage switching above 20kV

Old technology: Krytron Sprytron Ignitron
Modern technology Thyristor Triac


Ignitrons are ignitor-fired mercury pool rectifiers with

very high peak and average current handling capability. electron tube functioning as a rectifier to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) a mercury arc rectifier controlled by a subsidiar electrode, the igniter, partially immersed in a mercury cathode. A current passed between igniter and cathode forms a hot spot sufficient to strike an arc between cathode and anode used in a wide variety of pulse power applications, such as capacitor discharge, laser switching, magneforming, magnetizing and crowbar circuits. They are used in switching service for currents ranging to 700,000 Amps with voltages ranging to 50 kV.

Triggering ignitron
There are two main ways by which the trigger

can be biased: Anode excitation: common in resistance welding applications here the anode bias is connected to the ignitor by means of a switch (thyristor, thyratron etc.) and a resistor/fuse network. The ignitor current drops rapidly on ignition as the anode-cathode voltage drops very low during conduction. Separate excitation: as the name suggests, here the ignitor circuit is largely independent of the main circuit.

A large steel container with a pool of mercury in the bottom that acts as a cathode during operation A large graphite or refractory metal cylinder, held above the pool by an insulated electrical connection, serves as the anode An igniting electrode (called the "ignitor"), made of a refractory semiconductor material such as silicon carbide,is briefly pulsed with a high current to create a puff of electrically conductive mercury plasma . The plasma rapidly bridges the space between the mercury pool and the anode, permitting heavy conduction between the main electrodes. At the surface of the mercury, heating by the resulting arc liberates large numbers of electrons which help to maintain the mercury arc. The mercury surface thus serves as the cathode, and current is normally only in one direction. Once ignited, and ignitron will continue to pa ss current until (2) Cathode, (3) Ignitor, either the current is externally interrupted or the voltage (1) Anode,(5) Ceramic insulators, (6)(4) Mercury, Cooling fluid applied between cathode and anode is reversed.

Iwasaki Ignitron
It uses "Ferro-Electric Capacitor", a disc of barium titanate material invented by Iwasaki engineer Takenobu Iida - the first capacitor capable of enduring the temperatures in a lamp outer bulb. By combining this with a ceramic resistor and a "sidac" semiconductor, a high voltage electronic ignitor is created inside the lamp. Because there are no moving parts, its reliability is unsurpassed. This advanced development makes lamp ignition far more reliable and the removal of the ignitor from the external circuit offers numerous advantages such as lower system cost, smaller luminaires, reduced electrode wear, and no restriction on distance between lamp and gear.

Iwasaki Ignitron