Improving the Accuracy of Gas Sensors

If you need a sensor to detect gasses of some sort, you’ll probably be looking at the MQ series of gas sensors. These small metal cylinders contain a heater and some electrochemical sensor. Wire the heater up to a voltage, and connect one end of the resistor to an ADC, and you have a sensor for alcohol vapors, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, or ozone, depending on which model of sensor you’ve picked up.

These are simple analog devices, and as you would expect they’re sensitive to both temperature and humidity. [Davide Gironi] wanted a more accurate gas sensor, so he’s diving into a bit of overengineering and correlating the output of these sensors against temperature and humidity.

There’s a difference between accuracy and precision, and if you want to calibrate gas sensors, you’ll need to calibrate them against something. Instead of digging out a gas sensor of known precision, [Davide] took the easy way out: he graphed the curves on the datasheets for these sensors. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

These numbers were thrown into R, and with a bit of work, [Davide] had a look up table of various concentrations of gasses plotted against certain resistances. In testing these sensors, he found a higher correlation between humidity and temperature and gas concentrations, which one would expect.

The files for these sensors are available on [Davide]’s website, and he included a neat little video showing everyone what went into these calculations. You can check that out below.

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Bearing-in-Bearing Fidget Spinner Taken to the Max

People who know about bearings go through a phase of bemusement with regards to fidget spinners. We say something like, “man, I got a whole box of bearings in the basement.” Then we go through a “OK, I’ll make one” phase and print one out of PLA.

[fishpepper] took that sentiment a step further. After being forced to print spinners for his kids, he got jealous and decided to make his own—but his spinner would be a version for engineers. [fishpepper]’s ginormous spinner consists of five bearings superglued inside each other, with the grease cleaned out of the insides to make them spin faster. The inner two sets are doubled up bearings, 6 mm x 17 mm x 6 mm and 17 mm x 30 mm x 7 mm. The middle bearing measures 30 mm x 55 mm x 13 mm, and the fourth bearing 55 mm x 90 mm x 18 mm.

If you want to stop here, it’s a good size, around two inches across. However, [fishpepper] took it a step further, adding a fifth bearing, a 90 mm x 140 mm x 24 mm monster weighing in at 1 kg by itself. The total weight comes to 1.588 kg with the 3D-printed hub included. If you want to make one yourself, check out [fishpepper’s] bearing-in-bearing spinner tutorial which guides you through the various steps.

Hackaday likes fidget spinners so much you’d think we were in 6th grade: we’ve published posts on the three-magnet spinner hack, a fidget-spinning robot, and teaching STEAM with fidget spinners.

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A Bright Idea for Reflow Soldering

There are almost as many ways to reflow a surface-mount circuit board as there are hackers. Today, we add another method to the list. [Dasaki] converted a halogen floodlight into an SMT oven, and did so with all the bells and whistles. Check the video below the break.

We’ve actually seen the low-tech version of this hack before, but it’s nothing we would want to use on a daily basis. [Dasaki] needed to get 100 boards done, so it was worth the effort to get it right.

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Building a Better Baby Bottle Boiler

[Sebastian Foerster] hasn’t been at his blog in a while. He and his wife just had twins, so he’s been busy standing waiting for formula or milk to warm up. Being a technical kind of guy, he took a look at the tools currently on the market to do this, analyzed them, and decided instead to do it himself.

[Sebastian] looked to his Nespresso Aeroccino – a milk frother designed to give you hot or cold frothy milk for the top of whatever beverage you decide to put it on top of. It made the milk a bit too hot, 60°C, but once it got to the temperature, it would shut off, so if [Sebastian] could get it to shut off at a lower temperature, he had found the solution!

After taking the Aeroccino apart and going over the circuit, it seemed like a simple design relying on a resistor and NTC (negative temperature coefficient) thermistor connected to an ATTiny44 microcontroller. [Sebastian] didn’t want to have to reprogram the ATTiny, so he looked at the resistor and NTC. The resistor and thermistor create a voltage divider and that voltage is read in by the microcontroller through an analog pin. After looking up some info on the thermistor and replacing the resistor with a potentiometer, [Sebastian] could adjust the shut-off temperature while measuring with a thermometer. When he got the temperature he liked, he reads the value of the potentiometer and then replaces it with a couple of resistors in series.

Now [Sebastian] gets the babies’ bottles ready from fridge to temperature in about 25 seconds. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping an eye on the bottles as they heat up. We’re sure that getting two bottles ready in under a minute is much better on the nerves of new parents than waiting around for ten minutes. For more fun with thermistors, check out our article on resistors controlled by the environment or check out this bluetooth bbq thermometer!

Old Chart Recorder becomes Single-Pixel Scanner

With so many ways to capture images from paper, do we really need another one? Especially one that takes 15 minutes to capture a 128×128 pixel image? Probably not, but building a single-pixel RGB scanner is pretty instructive, and good clean fun to boot.

We have to admit that when [Kerry Wong] scored an ancient Hewlett-Packard X-Y chart recorder a while back, we wondered if it would lead to anything useful. One may quibble with the claim that the Lorenz attractor plotter he built with it is useful, and this single pixel scanner is equally suspect, but we like the idea. Using an Arduino to drive the X- and X-axis of the recorder through a raster pattern over the bed and replacing the pen with an RGB sensor board, [Kerry] was able to collect the color data for each pixel and reconstruct the image. It wouldn’t be too hard to replicate this if you don’t have an analog X-Y recorder, which just goes to show that not everything needs to be steppers and digital to get something useful done. Or at least semi-useful.

As for the RGB sensor used, they’ve made appearances here many times before, mostly in M&M sorters but with the occasional synesthesia simulator.

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RADAR Controlled Speakers

[Scott] had a simple problem – he was tired of leaning over his work bench to change the volume on his speakers. He desired a system that would readily allow him to switch the speakers on and off from a more comfortable distance. Not one to settle for the more conventional solutions available, [Scott] whipped up a RADAR-activated switch for his speaker system.

The build relies on a surprisingly cost-effective RADAR module available off the shelf, running in the 5.8GHz spectrum. At under $10, it’s no big deal to throw one of these into a project that requires some basic distance sensing. [Scott] decided to keep things simple – instead of going with a full-fat microcontroller to control the speakers, a 74HC590 IC was used to create a latch. Each time the RADAR module senses an object in close proximity, it toggles the state of the latch. The latch then controls a transistor that switches the power for the speakers.

Overall it’s a build that combines a modern integrated RADAR module with some very simple control logic to create a functional build. Of course, there’s so much more you can do with some 74-series logic. Video after the break.

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Tetris on a Soldering Iron

Our commenteers have all said good things about the open-source TS100 soldering iron pencil: things like “it solders well”. But we’ve all got soldering irons that solder well. What possible extra value does having open-source firmware on a soldering iron bring? [Joric] answered that question for us — it can play Tetris. (Video embedded below.)

While that’s cool and all, it wasn’t until we were reading through the README over at GitHub that the funniest part of this hack hit us. Every time you lose a game, the iron tip temperature increases by 10 degrees. Tetris for masochists? The makings of some horrible bar bets? We’re just glad that it’s open-source, because we’re not that good and it would get too hot to handle fast.

We haven’t tried out a TS100 yet, but this hack is almost pushing us to impulse purchase. There are alternative versions of the firmware if you just don’t like the font, for instance. And now, Tetris. Will this become the hot new gaming platform that you’ve been waiting for? Let us know in the comments.

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