An actively cooled cloud chamber

This cloud chamber is designed to keep the environment friendly for observing ionizing radiation. The group over at the LVL1 Hackerspace put it together and posted everything you need to know to try it out for yourself.

A cloud chamber uses a layer of alcohol vapor as a visual indicator of ionizing particles. As the name suggests, this vapor looks much like a cloud and the particles rip though it like tiny bullets. You can’t see the particles, but the turbulence they cause in the vapor is quite visible. Check out the .GIF example linked at the very bottom of their writeup.

The chamber itself uses a Peltier cooler and a CPU heat sink. The mounting and insulation system is brilliant and we think it’s the most reliable way we’ve seen of putting one of these together. Just remember that you need a radioactive source inside the chamber or you’ll be waiting a long time to see any particles. They’re using a test source here, but we saw a cloud chamber at our own local Hackerspace that used thoriated tungsten welding rods which are slightly radioactive.

[Thanks JAC_101]

DIY flux comes straight from the tree

[Tom] needed more solder flux and instead of buying it he thought he’d try making his own. The thing is, he didn’t have any rosin on hand. But knowing its source let him acquire it for free. He took a sample of tree sap and turned it into his own solder flux.

We’ve seen a few different DIY flux recipes this year. The most recent guide suggests sourcing rosin from the hardware store because of the quality, or if that fails you’ll find some at the music store. [Tom] was lucky enough to find a large dollop leaking from a pine tree in his neighborhood. He let it sit overnight in a container along with some isopropyl alcohol. In the morning the sap had fully dissolved, so he ran it through a coffee filter to get rid of any debris. He keeps it in a small jar, applying it to his projects using cotton swabs. You can see his short soldering demo after the break.

[Read more...]

Hot enough for ya? Super-cold cocktail-pops will help

The staff of Instructables know how to cut loose and cool off in this already-too-hot summer. They’re making their own popsicles out of cocktails. If only everyone were lucky enough to have employers who endorse these kinds of projects at work.

So the problem here is the the freezing point of liquor. Your margarita, daiquiri, strawberry with champagne, white russian and other favorites just aren’t ever going to solidify in a run-of-the-mill freezer because zero degrees Fahrenheit just won’t cut it. So the big guns were brought to bear. The cocktail-pops were lined up in a container and dowsed with liquid nitrogen.

The substance boils off at around -321 F, more than cold enough to quickly freeze these alcoholic goodies. But use caution. After they’ve been frozen you need to throw them in the freezer to warm them up. The first guinea pigs burned their tongues when trying to lick the pops too soon.

Don’t want to buy your liquid nitrogen? Why not just make your own?

What the flux: buy it or brew it yourself

Flux generally makes our lives easier. It’s the best bet when trying to prevent solder bridges with fine-pitch components like you see here. But it is also indispensable when it comes to desoldering components from a board (we’re talking just one component without disturbing all of the others). But have you ever looked at what it costs to pick up a syringe of liquid flux from an online retailer? In addition to the cost of the product itself there’s usually a hazardous material handling fee that is rolled into the shipping cost. So we were happy that [Christopher] sent in a link to the DIY flux page over at Dangerous Prototypes.

The concept is simple enough. Mix some rosin with some solvent. Turns out these items are really easy to source. The solvent can be acetone (which you may have on hand for removing toner transfer from freshly etched PCBs) or plain old rubbing alcohol. And an easy source for rosin is your local music store. They sell it to use on bow hair for String players. Grind it up, throw it in a bottle and you’re good to go. Now does anyone know where we can source needle-tipped bottles locally?

For those that still just want to buy flux we highly recommend watching part one and part two of [Ian's] flux review series.

Cocktail machine minces words

For those living in a magical land of candy, with orange-faced helpers to do their bidding, the ability to taste your words is nothing new. But for the rest of us, the ability to taste what you type in cocktail form is a novelty. [Morskoiboy] took some back-of-the-envelope ideas and made them into a real device that uses syringes as keys, and facilitates the injection of twenty-six different flavorings into a baseline liquid. He figures that you can make each letter as creative as you want to, like representing different alcohols with a letter (T for tequila) or matching them to colors (R for red). Check out the video after the break to see an ‘Any Word’ cocktail being mixed.

This setup is entirely mechanical, and makes us wonder if [Morskoiboy] works in the medical equipment design industry. Each letter for the keyboard is affixed to the plunger on a syringe. When depressed, they cause the liquid in an external vessel (not seen above) to travel through tubing until it fills the proper cavities on a 15-segment display to match the letter pressed. From there the additive is flushed out by the gravity-fed base liquid into the drinking glass. We can’t imagine the time that went into designing all of the plumbing!

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Reverse Engineering LED vodka bottle displays

wireless_led_marquee

When [Tyler] heard about the LED matrix display that Medea Vodka was building into their bottles, he immediately wanted to get his hands on one. Who could blame him? Someone had finally combined two things we love dearly: booze and LEDs.

He struggled to find a bottle at any of his local stores for the longest time, but was absolutely stoked when he finally came across one of their reps promoting the brand while he was out shopping.

Once he got home, he pulled the display off the bottle and began poking around to see what made it tick. The display is made from a flexible PCB, and attached to the bottle with some clear elastic film. It is powered by two CR2032 batteries and controlled by a PIC16F chip, which pulls stored messages from a small Atmel EEPROM.

Once he figured out how to control the LED matrix, he uploaded his own fonts and added a LINX wireless module to remotely send messages to the board. He mounted it in a wooden frame and now uses it as a simple marquee display.

If you have one of these displays hanging around your house, be sure to swing by his site for schematics of his wireless interface board as well as the code he uses to drive the marquee. You can check out a video of the display in action there as well.

Class up your next party with the Drink Making Unit 2.0

drink_making_unit_20

The crew over at [Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories] has been hard at work preparing for the Barbot 2011 cocktail robotic exhibition. This year, they are packing some serious drinking fun with the Drink Making Unit 2.0. The predictably named follow-up to last year’s wildly popular Drink Making Unit doubles the mixing capability with six, rather than three fluids, and provides a visually stimulating drink mixing experience.

While they are similarly named, the new unit has been completely redesigned since last year. No longer are they relying on breast pumps to move the alcohol along. Instead, they are using compressed air to dispense fluids from wash bottles which were constructed from laboratory beakers. The fluids are measured in specially altered graduated cylinders that are designed to tip over and release their contents when the appropriate amount of alcohol has been poured. These cylinders are designed to mimic the movement of Japanese garden fixtures called “deer chasers”, tipping back and forth solely powered by the ingress and egress of liquid.

The dispenser’s control panel houses an ATmega164, which orchestrates the entire operation. It interfaces with the LED driver boards that make up the display via SPI. The micro controller is also tasked with monitoring when the graduated cylinders tip their libations into the dispensing funnel, which is done using IR LEDs and photogates.

It’s a great looking machine, and while there isn’t any drink mixing video as of yet, we can’t wait to see it in action.

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