The Voltage Doubler Circuit
As its name suggests, a Voltage Doubler is a voltage multiplier circuit which has a voltage multiplication factor of two. The circuit consists of only two diodes, two capacitors and an oscillating AC input voltage (a PWM waveform could also be used). This simple diode-capacitor pump circuit gives a DC output voltage equal to the peak-to-peak value of the sinusoidal input. In other words, double the peak voltage value because the diodes and the capacitors work together to effectively double the voltage.
DC Voltage Doubler Circuit
So how does it work. The circuit shows a half wave voltage doubler. During the negative half cycle of the sinusoidal input waveform, diode D1 is forward biased and conducts charging up the pump capacitor, C1 to the peak value of the input voltage, (Vp). Because there is no path for capacitor C1 to discharge into, it remains fully charged and acts as a storage device in series with the voltage supply. At the same time, diode D2 conducts via D1 charging up capacitor, C2.
During the positive half cycle, diode D1 is reverse biased blocking the discharging of C1 while diode D2 is forward biased charging up capacitor C2. But because there is a voltage across capacitor C1 already equal to the peak input voltage, capacitor C2 charges to twice the peak voltage value of the input signal.
In other words, V(positive peak) + V(negative peak) as on the negative half-cycle, D1 charges C1 to Vp and on the positive half-cycle D2 adds the AC peak voltage to Vp onC1 and transfers it all to C2. The voltage across capacitor, C2 discharges through the load ready for the next half cycle.
Then the voltage across capacitor, C2 can be calculated as: Vout = 2Vp, (minus of course the voltage drops across the diodes used) where Vp is the peak value of the input voltage. Note that this double output voltage is not instantaneous but increases slowly on each input cycle, eventually settling to 2Vp.
As capacitor C2 only charges up during one half cycle of the input waveform, the resulting output voltage discharged into the load has a ripple frequency equal to the supply frequency, hence the name half wave voltage doubler. The disadvantage of this is that it can be difficult to smooth out this large ripple frequency in much the same way as for a half wave rectifier circuit. Also, capacitor C2 must have a DC voltage rating at least twice the value of the peak input voltage.
The advantage of “Voltage Multiplier Circuits” is that it allows higher voltages to be created from a low voltage power source without a need for an expensive high voltage transformer as the voltage doubler circuit makes it possible to use a transformer with a lower step up ratio than would be need if an ordinary full wave supply were used. However, while voltage multipliers can boost the voltage, they can only supply low currents to a high-resistance (+100kΩ) load because the generated output voltage quickly drops-off as load current increases.
By reversing the direction of the diodes and capacitors in the circuit we can also reverse the direction of the output voltage creating a negative voltage output. Also, if we connected the output of one multiplying circuit onto the input of another (cascading), we can continue to increase the DC output voltage in integer steps to produce voltage triplers, or voltage quadruplers circuits, etc, as shown.