Adult sized baking powder submarine

baking-powder-submarine

It really doesn’t matter what age you are, we’re sure you remember baking powder submarines. That’s because cereal manufacturers have been including them as prizes since the advent of injection molded plastic. Fill them with baking soda and take them in the bath with you. They gently dive and surface. The problem is that the cereal prizes were tiny. Now you can relive your childhood with an adult size version of your own making.

The submarine is basically a hunk of PVC with a conning tower to keep it upright and a chunk of hose into which the baking powder is placed. The idea is that the powdery acid and base that makes up the stuff reacts when hit with water. This gives off a bit of carbon dioxide, which makes the sub float to the surface until the bubble escapes and is replaced with water to again sink the ship. The difficult part is to find the right buoyancy (using wine bottle cork) so that the bubble is all it takes to oscillate between the surface and the watery depths.

Watch it go in the video after the break.

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On not getting metal fume fever with galvanized conduit

galv

You can find galvanized steel pipes at Home Depots and construction sites all around the world. These relatively thin-walled steel pipes would make for great structural members if it weren’t for the fact they were covered in a protective layer of zinc. This layer of galvanization lends itself to crappy welds and some terrible fumes, but badass, TV personality, and hacker extraordinaire [Hackett] shows us how to strip the galvanization off these pipes with chemicals available at any hardware store.

Since the galvanization on these pipes covers the inside and the outside, grinding the small layer of zinc off these pipes is difficult at best. To be sure he gets all the zinc off this pipe, [Hackett] decided to chemically strip the pipes with a cup full of muriatic acid.

The process is simple enough – fill a cup with acid, dunk the ends of the pipes, and clean everything up with baking soda. A great way to turn scrap pipe into a usable material, make a cool paper mache volcano, and avoid ‘ol galvie flu

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HHO generator makes bubbles that go boom

hho-generator

Here’s [Phil] showing off the components he used to make an HHO generator. The device uses household items to generate hydrogen and oxygen from water using electrolysis.

He’s using a plastic Nesquik container as the vessel for his experiment. Inside is water doped with a bit of baking soda. The lid plays host to the majority of components. There are electrodes which stick through the lid of the container. To help boost the productivity of the generator these electrodes have several metal washers suspended between. It’s importnat to avoid a short circuit so they’re mounted with the plastic bolt from a toilet seat, and isolated using hot glue. A plastic tube used collects the gasses. You can tweak the ratio of what’s being collected by reversing the polarity of the battery.

It’s interesting to see soap bubbles lit on fire in the demo video. But there are more serious uses for this concept. People have been working on making it feasible to power cars from the hydrogen generated this way. We’ve also seen a plastic bottle rocket powered from an HHO generator, and there’s always the thought of building your own miniature dirigible.

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Hackit: Researchers wait 69-years to see tar move

69-year-science-experiement

This experiment was started at Trinity College Dublin way back in 1944. Its purpose is to prove that tar flows, and indeed it does let go of a drop about every ten years. The thing is that nobody has ever seen that happen, bringing up the “if a tree falls in the forest” scenario. The Nature article on this event even mentions another experiment whose last drop was missed because the camera monitoring it was offline. This time around they did get some footage of the (un)momentous event which you can see below.

So here’s the challenge for clever hackers: What’s the easiest rig you can think of that won’t just continuously film the experiment but can also ensure that you get the goods on tape when a drop does fall? We see all kinds of high-speed shutter triggers — here’s one of the latest. But we don’t remember seeing an extremely slow version of the same. Let us know your idea by leaving a comment.

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Automated aquarium fertilizer doser

aquarium-auto-doser

If you are using live plants in your aquarium you must remember to fertilize them at regular intervals. Being a bit forgetful, [Deven] automated the process by building this auto-doser.

There are three different chemicals which are dispensed by the system. They are stored in the drink bottles seen above. Each has a plastic tube which runs up to the dosing motors mounted on the black box. [Deven] sourced the motors from eBay. They are designed for this type of application.

Inside the black box is the Arduino that handles timing and switches the motors. The control circuitry is protected using one MOSFET for each. To keep the fish safe the outflow is directed right into the aquarium pump so that the concentrated chemicals are quickly dispersed through the entire tank.

Now that he’s made it this far he might as well add the ability to feed the fish and control the lighting.

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A very tiny gamma ray detector

gamma

When you think of a radiation detector, you’re probably thinking of a Geiger tube and its high voltage circuitry. That isn’t the only way to measure gamma radiation, though, and [Alan] has a great circuit to measure even relatively weak radiation sources. It uses a very small photodiode, and draws so little power it’s perfect for projects with the smallest power budgets.

The detector circuit uses a miniature solar cell and a JFET wired up in a small brass tube to block most of the light and to offer some EM shielding. This, in turn, is attached to a small amplifier circuit with a LED, Piezo clicker, and in [Alan]‘s case a small counter module. The photodiode is actually sensitive enough to detect the small amounts of gamma radiation produced from a smoke alarm americium source, and also registers [Alan]‘s other more powerful radioactive sources.

The circuit only draws about 1mA, but [Alan] says he can probably get that down to a few micoAmps. A perfect radiation sensor for lightweight and low power applications, and gives us the inspiration to put a high altitude balloon project together.

Reflow soldering improved with carbon dioxide

co2_reflow-oven

This is exactly what it looks like. [Oleg] calls it soldering in inert atmosphere, but it’s just a toaster oven reflow hack dropped into a container full of carbon dioxide.

Why go to this trouble? It’s all about solder wetting. This is the ability of the molten solder paste to flow into all of the tinned areas of a board. [Oleg] talks about the shelf life of hot air leveled PCB tinning, which is about six months. After this the tin has oxidized. It will certainly not be as bad as bare copper would have, but it can lead to bad solder joints if your PCBs are more than about six months off the production line. This is one of the reasons to use solder flux. The acid eats away at the oxidized layer, exposing tin that will have better wetting.

But there is another way. Soldering in the absence of oxygen will also help the wetting process. CO2 is heavier than air, so placing the reflow oven in a plastic container will allow you to purge air from the space. CO2 canisters are cheap and easy to acquire. If you keg your own homebrew beer you already own one!

If you’ve got everything but the reflow oven just look around for a few examples of how to build your own.