USB LiPo battery BBQ arc lighter – CCFL test device (WHL #47)

Fun with high voltages.
[NOT a sponsored post! They’ll probably do not want me to do that in the first place…]

This week (at work…), I repaired an old Siemens PLC unit with a failed display backlight. Good old CCFL crap that literally burns out over time. As this wasn’t time critical (unlike the last unit), I ordered some CCFL to LED conversion kit from China, modified that to fit the tiny display, threw away the crappy “converter” PCB and installed some homebrew.

While fiddling around, my mind wandered off. Last year, I visited the EMC lab of Würth Elektronik in Waldenburg, Germany (obviously…). We did some precompliance measurements for the new revision of our main workhorse, had a nice chat with several of their service reps who had a peek at what we were doing, got a guided tour of their impressive new and automated warehouse and so on and so forth. Aside from the always welcome supply of gummy bears, I was also handed this as a freebie:

An electronic cigarette lighter. Lithium battery operated, USB rechargeable, but not the common type that has a small heating element that is pushed to red hot in order to light your cancer stick.

(I know the automatic white balance is terrible with my new camera. I’ll nail that down to manual settings in the future)

Nope, this one has a HV generator inside. And two contacts in the front, which will move forward when you slide the safety button cover out of the way.

That thing uses a friggen electric arc to ignite stuff. 2-3mm of arc length, multiply that with ~3kV of breakdown voltage per mm of air, we’re talking like 7kV. That’s in agreement with the cheapy Chinese modules for such items, which are often marketed as 7.5kV. We all know there’s a conversion factor from China kilovolts to SI kilovolts, but it’ll be in the ballpark.

What’s that got to do with defective CCFLs?



High voltage, low current capabilities, excellent to ignite a CCFL to see if it’s still good. Of course it’ll melt the plastic parts of the connector on elongated use, but I just wanted to zap that CCFL in order to check it. And it works. Arc lighters DO have their application at the workplace, even for non-smokers! :grin:

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