Penny and Paper Clip Heat Sinks

A bunch of audio heads over at the Head-Fi forum were discussing handy and quick heat sinking methods, leading to much speculation and conjecture. This finally prompted [tangentsoft] to take matters in his own hands and run some tests on DIY Heat Sinks.

The question that sparked this debate was if a paper clip is a good enough heat sink to be used for a TO220 package. Some folks suggested copper pennies (old ones minted 1981 and earlier – the new ones are zinc with copper plating and won’t help much). [tangentsoft] built a jig to test six LM317 regulators in constant current mode set to 0.125A and 2w dissipation. The six configurations were a paper clip, a single penny bolted to the regulator, a regular Aavid TO220 heat sink, a set of 4 pennies bolted, a single penny epoxy glued and finally a single penny soldered directly to the regulator.

The results were pretty interesting. The paper clip scored better than any of the single pennies! The quad-penny and the Aavid heat sink fared above all the other configurations, and almost at par with each other. [tangentsoft] posts his review of each configurations performance and also provides details of his test method, in case someone else wants to replicate his tests to corroborate the results. He tested each configuration independently for one hour, gathering just over 10000 readings for each setup. Other nearby heat sources were turned off, and he placed strategic barriers around the test circuit to isolate it from the effects of other cooling / heating sources. He even removed himself from the test area and monitored his data logging remotely from another room. When he noticed a couple of suspect deviations, he restarted the test.

[tangentsoft] put all the data through Mathematica and plotted his results for analysis, available at this link [pdf, 2.8MB]. So the next time you want to heat sink a regulator for cheap, just hunt for Clippy in your box of office supplies. Do remember that these methods will work for only a couple of watts dissipation. If you would like to cast and build your own heat sinks out of aluminum, check out this post about DIY Aluminum heat sink casting. And if you need help calculating heat sink parameters, jump to 12:00 minutes in this video from [Dave]’s EEVBlog episode on Dummy loads and heat sinks.

Thanks to [Greg] for sending in this tip.

A Low Cost, Solar-Powered Swamp Cooler

A looming, torturous summer is preparing to bear down on many of us, making this dirt-cheap swamp cooler build an attractive hack to fend off the heat.

Though this is a pretty standard evaporative cooler, the design comes together in a tidy and transportable finished product. The base is a ~$3, 5-gallon bucket from a local hardware store with its accompanying Styrofoam liner. Three 2 1/8″ holes carved into the side of both the bucket and liner will snugly fit some inch-and-a-half PVC pipe with no need for glue.

One last cut into the lid to seat a small desk fan rounds off this build—or you can chop into the styrofoam liner’s lid if you prefer. The video demonstrates using a 15W solar panel to run the fan, and we have to admit that the cooler seems to be an excellent low-cost build. It does, however, require a frozen gallon jug inside to pump out the chilled air for around 5-6 hours per jug. Maybe one of our frugal and mathematically-inclined readers can throw out some guesstimations for the cost of stocking the bucket with a jug of frozen water a couple times a day? Video after the jump.

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Beating the heat with geothermal cooling


A while back, [Erich]’s oil heating system was due for a few repairs. Given the increasing price of fuel oil, and a few incentives from his Swiss government, he decided to go with a more green heating solution – geothermal heating. The system works well in the winter, but it’s basically useless in the summer. [Erich] decided to put his 180 meter investment to work for the summer heat, and made his geothermal heating system into a cooling system with a fairly low investment and minimal cost.

The stock system works by pumping cold liquid from [Erich]’s under floor heating into the Earth. In winter, the surface is always colder than the ground, thus heating [Erich]’s home. In the summer, the situation is reversed, with the cool earth insulated by the baked surface. All that was required to reverse the heating system was a few slight modifications to the heating controller.

Stock, [Erich]’s heat pump controller doesn’t have the capability to run the system in reverse, so he turned to a Freescale board to turn the compressor off and the pump on. With the additions, [Erich] is using 50 Watts to pump 1.5 kW of heat directly into the Earth below, a fairly efficient cooling system that’s basically free if you already have a geothermal setup.

Timer-based cooling helps your network survive the summer

Start your week off with a smile thanks to the video [Sammy] put together. It shows off the cooling rack he made for his network equipment. The project was developed out of necessity as the summer weather was causing his modem and router to heat up and at some point one of them would just shutdown and refuse to work again for hours. We haven’t run into this ourselves but it’s good to know that over-temperature safeguards have been built into the equipment.

His solution was to build a rack that offers fan cooling above and below the two pieces of equipment. As with most of his projects, we think making the video (embedded after the break) was half the fun. In addition to playing around with a turntable for some extra special camera effects he gives us a good view of the overall build. The base includes spacers and velcro strips to hold the equipment in place above a pair of exhaust fans. The standoffs at each corner of the rack suspend a second pair of fans above the equipment. But it wouldn’t look nearly as good without some custom LED effects thrown into the mix.

This is purely timer-drive. It’s a plug-in module that uses mechanical timing to switch mains. But some creative circuitry (or a small microcontroller) could implement temperature-based switching instead.

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Checking out the temperature of a Raspberry Pi

[Remy] has access to a very nice Fluke thermal camera, so when his Raspberry pi came in he pointed the thermal camera at the Raspi (Spanish, Google translation) to see how far this neat computer could be pushed before it overheated.

There are three main sources of heat on the Raspberry Pi: the voltage regulator, the USB/Ethernet controller and the Broadcom SoC. At idle, these parts read 49.9° C, 48.7° C and 53° C, respectively; a little hot to the touch, but still well within the temperature ranges given in the datasheets for these components.

The real test came via a stress test where the ARM CPU was at 100% utilization. The Broadcom SoC reached almost 65° C while the Ethernet controller and regulator managed to reach the mid-50s. Keeping in mind this test was performed at room temperature, we’d probably throw a heat sink on a Raspberry Pi if it’s going to be installed in an extreme environment such as a greenhouse or serving as a Floridian or Texan carputer.

Thanks [Alberto] for sending this in.

Building a Ranque-Hilsch vortex cooling tube

The Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube is an interesting piece of equipment. It can, without any moving parts or chemicals, separate hot and cold compressed gasses that are passed through it. Interestingly enough, you can cobble one together with very few parts for fairly cheap. [Otto Belden] tossed one together in a weekend back in 2009 just to see if he could do it. His results were fairly good and he shared some video tutorials on its construction.

His latest version, which you can see in the video below, takes compressed air at about 78degrees and spits out about 112degrees on the hot side and  8degrees on the cold side. Not too bad!

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CoolBot keeps your laser cutter from overheating

[Charles] wrote in to share the project he just built for the London Hackerspace. He calls it CoolBot, and as the name indicates it’s responsible for keeping the laser cutter from overheating.

At its heart the system is a water pump. It uses a plastic storage container as a reservoir, with an outfeed from the laser tube coming in the top of the lid. [Charles] mounted a temperature sensor using a 3D printed part to anchor it in the center of the return stream. An Arduino clone uses this sensor, as well as ambient room temperature and laser tube temperature sensors to decide when to switch on the cooling pump. As with any hackerspace add-on, this wouldn’t be complete without Internet connectivity so he included an Ethernet shield in the project box. Speaking of, that box uses panel-mount connectors to keep dust and water away from the electronics. But the lid of the controller box also includes a character LCD for quick reference.

Don’t miss [Charles’] explanation of the system in the video after the break.

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