A GSM Base Station With Software Defined Radio

gsmIf you’re wondering how to get a better signal on your cellphone, or just want to set up your own private cell network, this one is for you. It’s a GSM base station made with a BeagleBone Black and a not too expensive software defined radio board.

The key component of this build is obviously the software defined radio. [Julian] is using a USRP B200 radio for this project. It’s not cheap, but it is a very nice piece of hardware capable of doing just about anything with GNU Radio. This board is controlled by a BeagleBone Black, a pretty cheap solution that puts the total cost of the hardware somewhere around $750.

The software side of the build is mostly handled by OpenBTS, the open source project for the software part of a cell station. This controls the transceiver, makes calls and SMS, and all the backend stuff every other cell station does. OpenBTS also includes support for Asterisk, the software of choice for PBX and VoIP setups. Running this allows you to make calls and send texts with your SDR-equipped, Internet-enabled BeagleBone Black anywhere on the planet.

Electric tricycle build log is like hacker crack

electric-tricycle-burns-rubber

This tiny little scratch-built electric tricycle is a insanely powerful. Some might think you don’t need a crash helmet for testing a trike, but seeing the video after the break where [Ben Katz] is flying through a parking garage while slaloming between the support beams proves that this ride has some pep to it.

Looking through the presentation post linked above is fun, but when we started digging though the six build log posts we felt ourselves getting sucked into the project. It’s a delight every step of the way. It started with an aluminum box which will host the two rear wheels, drive train, motor, and battery. [Ben] decided to go with A123 Lithium cells, and after testing to see how many he could fit in the space available he started making choices on the motor and driver circuit. When he finally got his hands on the actual cells for the project he took on the fascinating process of constructing his own battery. Dozens of them were hot glued, then soldered together before being encased by placing them in soda bottles and hitting the plastic with a heat gun. And we haven’t even gotten into the bicycle hub-gear transmission system, disc brakes, differential, chain-drive, and motor… you see what we mean about sucking you in.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering this is not [Ben's] first electric vehicle build. Last year he was showing off his all terrain scooter.

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Battery teardown to get at the cells inside

battery-teardown

Most of what people call batteries are actually cells. All of the common disposable alkaline batteries from AAA to D are single cells. The exception is the 9v battery which actually has six smaller cells inside of it. [Tom] took a look inside three different batteries to see what cells they’re hiding. Since he no longer uses the batteries for their intended purposes the individual cells may find a new life inside of one of his upcoming projects.

The six volt lantern battery on the left has four cells inside of it. This is no surprise since each zinc-carbon cell is rated for 1.5V. There’s not much that can be done with the internals since each cell is made of a carbon rod and zinc electrolyte ooze (rather than being sealed in their own packages).

Moving on to the rechargeable PP3 battery in the middle he finds the 8.4V unit is made up of seven 1.2V nickel-metal hydride cells. Many of them were shot, but we’d love to see one of the intact cells powering something small like a bristlebot.

The final component is an old laptop battery. Inside are an octet of Lithium Ion cells. The majority register 0V, but a few have 0.4V left on them. This is not surprising. We’ve seen power tool packs that have a few bad cells spoil the battery. It’s possible to resurrect a battery by combining good cells from two or more dead units.

Welding with over a hundred A123 Lithium cells

a123-cell-powered-welder

[Doctor Bass] needed to do some welding on his electric bicycle. The problem is that he’s never welded before and doesn’t have any tools for it. As you can see, that didn’t stop him. He used a bicycle battery made from reclaimed DeWalt A123 cells to power his diy welding rig.

He has a huge adjustable resistor which is responsible for limiting the current. 80 Amps seems to work the best with the welding rods he’s chosen. It is worth noting that when he shows off each part of the welder (see the clip after the break) the color of the wire used for positive and negative leads is opposite of convention. His positive wiring is black while his ground connection is red.

To get the welding under way he connects a jumper-cable-like clamp to his work piece which serves as the positive electrode. To hold the welding rod he drilled a hole in a pair of vice grip pliers and bolted on the negative lead. This way the end of the welding rod can be clamped in the vice grips while his other hand guides the tip. So far he’s still practicing, but it looks like he’s nearly ready to take on the job at hand.

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LiPo internal resistance measurement tool

lipo-internal-resistance-meter

This is a scratch-build meter for measuring the internal resistance of Lithium Polymer cells. [Bleuer Csaba] uses the LiPo cells for RC vehicles and thet take quite a beating from the motors  they’re supplying. This means that he only gets about 100-200 cycles out of each cell. To figure out where one is in its life cycle you can measure the internal resistance where a rising resistance indicates greater age. [Bleuer] mentions that you can buy a meter to do this for you, but what fun is that?

Since he’s rolling his own tool he defined his own parameters for the readings. After experimenting with different loads driven for different test periods he was able to extrapolate an equation that estimates the resistance measurement. As you can see in the clip after the break, this happens very fast. All he has to do is connect the cell and press one button. The measurements are made and various data points are displayed on the quartet of 7-segment displays.

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Open source capactive charger resurrects an electric skateboard

mikey-sklar-on-electric-skateboard

Here’s [Mikey Sklar] posing on his new electric skateboard. Well, it’s new to him at any rate. He bought it used on eBay for $250. That may not sound like much of a deal, but these will run more like $800 retail. The savings comes because the thing would no longer charge. But it took him just an hour and a half with his capacitive charger to resurrect the flat lithium cells.

The first thing he did in trouble shooting the situation was to measure the voltage of the battery pack. It registered 5V, which is a far cry from the 36V it should supply. The built-in charger does nothing, as it’s circuitry isn’t designed to work in a situation like this one. But [Mikey] has a tool perfect for this purpose. Da Pimp is a capacitive charger which we’ve seen before. It succeeds where the other failed because it is able to adapt itself to the internal resistance of the battery, no matter what voltage level it starts at.

[Mikey] shows off the use of his charger in the clip after the break. His first test run was more than two miles without issue.

[Read more...]

Testing 30 brands of batteries

Batteries come packaged in bright blister packs emblazoned with vague guarantees such as “45% more pictures” and “five times longer lasting.” During his internship at BitBox this summer, [Thomas] decided to put those statements to the test. He tested thirty brands of batteries on a homebrew rig to find the batteries with the most power and the most bang for your buck.

The hardware [Thomas] used an STM32 microcontroller to perform two different tests: a high drain and a low drain condition. For the high drain, 1000 mA were sucked out of the batteries until the voltage reached 0.8 V. For the low drain, 200 mA were used. Data including milliwatt-hours, milliamp-hours, joules, voltage, current, power, and effective load resistance were all logged for both conditions for all 30 batteries.

Generalizing the results for both low and high drain conditions, lithium batteries were better than alkaline, which were both better than zinc AA cells. Perhaps unsurprisingly, batteries marketed as ‘long life’ and ‘extended power’ were the worst batteries for the money, but a brand-name battery – the Kodak Xtralife cells – were actually the best value for the money.

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