I was recently looking into Nixie tubes however the requirement of high voltages was a bit scary, especially given that these voltages were in the 150-200V range.

Instead of using a boost converter with a low voltage supply like the 5v rail on an Arduino, I decided (for the sake of simplicity) to simply do what most cheap LED torches do - Put 50 or so CR2032 batteries in a plastic tube with wires on each end. This way I can get a voltage of 150V or so easily without any boost circuitry. The problem, however is that I have absolutely no experience doing so, nor have I ever heard of someone doing this with more than 6 cells before.. Will the batteries do something bad?

Also, would I be able to power a Nixie like the IN-14 with a setup like this?

  • \$\begingroup\$ THings you need to work out: How much current do you need from this source? and what is the internal resistance of a CR2032 battery? \$\endgroup\$
    – The Photon
    Dec 7 '16 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThePhoton Both really; cheap torches do it, but for low voltages usually no more than 9V. I've edited my question to clarify \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '16 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RandomUser, You need 9V of current...? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cerin
    Dec 7 '16 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Putting at least 50 CR2032 batteries is more problematic than building a boost converter, believe me. Besides, a 50-battery-stack will have a charge of about 200mAh. Assuming 2mA/digit for a single tube, that amount of charge will be sufficient for a long time, IMO. But, I were you, to get 150VDC, I would buy a 220:110/20VA transformer then put a full-bridge rectifier and an electrolytic (say, 47uF/200V) capacitor. Easy and simple. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '16 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cerin When did I say that? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '16 at 19:34

With good batteries, it will work fine and it used to be a common practice. Many tube schematics label the high, positive power supply for the plates as "B+". This stands for "Battery positive".

Batteries can cause death by electrocution or by starting a fire. I recommend using a fuse and taking high-voltage safety precautions. See Tubelab Electrical Safety.

The idea has challenges, but no worries, I have a suggestion below that you will like better:

  • It is not great to create a waste stream of dead batteries
  • Expensive
  • Mechanically challenging to make reliable
  • Any one failed battery ruins the whole pile

Many cheap CR2032 batteries are actually 'recycled' (dead), even though they have authentic-looking packaging. I have had this problem when buying from my favorite normally-reliable online store.

An easier way to build a high-voltage battery is to chain a bunch of 9V batteries together. 9V batteries snap right together in series, and are good for a quick check of the power supply requirements for your circuit. When it is time to build something better, you can measure exactly what you will need.

There should be no problem driving the IN-14.

Take care, they pack a punch!


Long time ago, batteries for vacuum tube operation were commercially manufactured, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_(vacuum_tube)


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