High-Voltage Signal Generator for Biomedical Applications
Thesis DisciplineElectrical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Electroporation is the process where externally applied electric fields cause significantly increased permeability of the cell membrane. The increased permeability allows the transport of external compounds into the cell. This is important for applications in electrochemotheropy, electrofusion and drug delivery. Electroporation also has applications in the disinfection of liquids. Given a high enough electric field across the cell membrane, the electroporation process can become irreversible, leading to cell destruction. With the cell membrane under an intense electric field, the cell membrane structure fails causing the cell to die. Conventional liquid beverage disinfection systems rely on slow heating methods requiring large power requirements; this can reduce the taste and quality of some liquids. Pulse generators provide the necessary electric fields to produce the required voltage potential across the cell membrane. The usefulness of electroporation depends on several parameters such as amplitude, frequency and rise/fall times of the electric field. The wave shape also has a bearing on performance, and is limited by the pulse generator topology. A multilevel bipolar waveform is desired with operating frequencies above about 1 kHz. The cascaded H-bridge or full-bridge topology is the most useful as it capable of producing multilevel bipolar waveforms at high frequency. This thesis presents the design and implementation of a multilevel high-voltage pulse generator, capable of creating very high-voltage AC pulses. MOSFET switching devices in conjunction with good layout practices were used to provide required fast switching speeds. The full-bridge topology is used to create a multilevel output profile through cascading of multiple stages. As a full-bridge topology inherently creates a RCL resonant network, there are many challenges associated with mitigating high-frequency noise sources. Two separate stages are built, a low voltage stage capable of outputting up to 200 Vp and a high voltage stage capable of switching up to 1 kVp. A control board was also built for pulse signal generation and user configuration of the output waveforms. The designed pulse generator can produce short pulses of up to 1.4 kVp at frequencies of up to 350 kHz using primarily resistive loads (that simulate a conductive liquid load). Little high frequency switching noise was observable on the output waveform. A single stage pulse generator was also tested with actual liquid loads using an electrode chamber, demonstrating electroporation. The liquid load testing was performed on water and milk derived from milk powder. Results showed that the liquid loads were consistent with primarily resistive loads.