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Marx Generator

Some history

The Marx generator circuit first described by Erwin Marx in 1924 and is a voltage multiplier. The principle of acting is to charge a number of capacitors in parallel and discharge in series with the use of spark gaps. Marx generator is used for testing high voltage devices (transformers, insulators) for lightning emulation, for X-Ray generation and some other uses.

How it works

The charging voltage is applied to the input. The stage capacitors (C) charge through the charging resistors (R). When capacitors are charge up, the first spark gap (SG) is going to breakdown from overvoltage. This connects the first two capacitors in series, overvolting the next spark gap, which then connects the first three capacitors in series, which overvolting the next gap, and so forth. This process is referred to as erecting. The erecting voltage pulse appears in the output and is approximately equal to the input voltage times number of stages.


Materials used for the construction:

  • 6 pieces of 1000pF 20kV ceramic capacitors.
  • 33 pieces of metal film 232 Kohm 600 V resistors (can be used any value from 100 Kohm to 1 Mohm). (note, each R consists of 3 resistors connected in series).
  • 1 meter thick wire ~1.5mm diameter solid stranded.
  • 12 pieces of 3/16" brass balls.
  • A piece of plexiglass.
  • A low power high voltage power supply, 8 ~ 12kV output.


Various tests performed using input voltages from 8 to 18KV. Results was as calculated. Maximum spark lentgh was 8.5 ~ 9cm this equals peak voltage 75~80 KV. Total discharge energy is E=0.5*C*V2 in this case C equals to the six capacitor stages in series 1000pF divided by 6 (number of stages). C=1000pF/6=166pF, V=80kV, Energy=530 mJ.



Air sparks:

Water corona discharge:

Spark through water:

Safety Information & Disclaimer:

Even if the suggested HV power supply is capable of less than 1 mA the capacitors can store enough charge. The author take no responsibility for injuries, electrical shock and damage to electronic devices that can occur during experimentation with these devices.

Author: Spyros I. Fyrogenis

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