What you see above is a generator that converts heat to electricity. [Reukpower's] thermoelectric lamp is one of those hacks that makes you scratch your head even though you understand why it should work. The heart of the system uses a Peltier cool, just like the thermoelectric solar generator. When there is a temperature differential from one side of the Peltier to the other a small current is generated.
In this case a candle heats one side and a heat sink cools the other. The tiny voltage picked up from the Peltier’s contacts is then boosted using a joule thief. We’ve seen LEDs powered with a joule thief before, benefiting from their own low power consumption. In this case, the boost circuit is scavenged from an emergency phone charger and probably achieves higher efficiency than if he had built it himself.
We’re barely past Halloween and people are already working on their next LED based holiday decorations. For Hanukkah, Gizmodo pointed out the PCB menorah pictured above. It uses a set of DIP switches to control which LEDs are lit. A couple years ago, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories put together a tutorial for building a more minimal LED menorah. Each of the nine LEDs are soldered directly to the legs of an ATtiny2313 microcontroller. Every time you power up the device an additional LED is lit. [Ori] liked the project and decided to take a slightly different approach. He used an LM3914 DIP18 LED bar driver. A potentiometer controls how many of the LEDs are illuminated.
Our flickering LED circuit combined two known circuit, and certainly wasn’t graceful because of it. [sprite_tm] saw quite a few areas where the circuit could be reduced. He ended up taking it down to just two LEDs, a battery, and an ATtiny13. The first step was getting rid of the current limiting resistors. The datasheet shows that with a 3V supply the AVR will limit the current well below the maximum current. The light sensor was removed next. [sprite_tm] referenced an earlier post on sensing with LEDs. He measures the voltage across one of the LEDs while it is off to see how much light is hitting it. The current draw while on is 10mA and 50uA while off.
[aballen] wanted to light the jack-o’-lantern this year with something that didn’t actually require fire. After searching for a project that was cheap and yielded decent results, he ended up just making his own. This project utilizes an ATtiny13 and two LEDs, red and orange. The overall build is quick and simple with some very basic code for the flickering. If you really want it more enclosed, there is this similar project using a cheap electric candle. Of course, not everyone has the time or desire to make one that is this realistic. You could always just go the easy way, no microcontroller required.
Why limit it to just lighting up your pumpkin though? Lets take a stroll through Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories hallways and see the Snap O Lantern or the dark detecting pumpkin and the Cyclonolantern.
Instructables user [cedtlab] has posted an interesting LED project that simulates birthday candles. The circuit runs on an AVR ATTiny45, and is powered by 4 AA or AAA batteries. By using a Charliplexing technique, they are able to drive all 20 LEDs with only 5 pins of the ATTiny. A thermistor is used for detecting breath by measuring temperature changes, and then blocks of LEDs turn off depending on the change detected. They have provided schematics and source code for everything. Make sure to check out the video of the “ficticious birthday party” after the break.
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