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Chapter 13:
High and Higher Voltage
We have seen in earlier chapters that it is fairly straightforward to use a voltage divider to move from one voltage to a lower voltage; however, a little more work is required to be able to move to higher voltages, at least voltages that are higher than the source voltage. Optical engineers use many devices that require high voltage for operation, such as a HeNe laser or a Pockels cell. These devices are driven by high-voltage power supplies that are several times higher than the typical source voltages available. One of the reasons for the success of alternating current in the power grid systems is that it is fairly straightforward to raise or lower the voltage using a transformer. However, more effort is needed when trying to raise DC voltages. Sometimes the process of raising a DC voltage to a higher level requires transitions to AC, along with reduction in efficiencies. In this chapter we will look at how to raise both AC and DC voltages and the devices used for this purpose. We will begin with a look at transformers and move to simple oscillators for generating AC. Then we will look at how to drive these voltages considerably higher using Cockcroft–Walton voltage multipliers.
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