I've done some backlight work for instrument displays using CCFLs and designing custom drivers (12 Vdc to ~1000 Vac) so I have some experience with these designs. Recently a friend of mine was interested in doing some custom neon controllers for small diameter, short length tubes ( < 1m). Are the electrical characteristics for neon similar for CCFL? Has anyone experimented with modifying piezoelectric inverters to drive neon lamps?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe they tend to be "quite similar", but, the exact values of X Y Z differ, depending on factors of tube diameter, length, gas, etc. Before the tube is lit, applies X volts, Y mA at Z Hz. Voltage needs to be high, often few hundred to few thousand volts, depending on tube length, etc. Current needs not be high. After tube is lit, voltage drops to A volts (typically tens of volts) and current-limited at B mA. Frequency can ranges from DC up to few tens of KHz. The V I (X, Y, A, B) characteristics varies a bit at different frequency. \$\endgroup\$ – EEd Apr 5 '16 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some information here. neon-sign transformer …in the range of 2 to 15 kV ... 30 - 120 mA. makes the transformer more of an AC constant current source than a constant voltage source Modern neon sign "transformers" are typically switching power supplies designed to have similar characteristics to the older style of mains-frequency transformer. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neon-sign_transformer electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/109786/… \$\endgroup\$ – EEd Apr 7 '16 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some ready-made units with different voltage and current ratings. 5kv 25ma, 8kv 25ma, 4kv 50mA, 8kV 25mA, 990v 40ma signbuyer.co.uk/neon-transformers-2-c.asp \$\endgroup\$ – EEd Apr 7 '16 at 13:36

I have done a bit of research, and found this video:


as well as several articles. It would appear that it is possible to drive neon tubes,although it may be slightly dim.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the help in finding some examples. I suspected it was possible, now I can look into the details of optimizing them. \$\endgroup\$ – user6972 Apr 7 '16 at 19:23

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