Experimenting with bridge rectifers for AC to DC power conversion

The folks over at Toymaker Television have put together another episode. This time they’re looking at bridge rectifiers and how they’re used in AC to DC converters.

This is a simple concept which is worth taking the time to study for those unfamiliar with it. Since Alternating Current is made up of cycles of positive and negative signals it must be converted before use in Direct Current circuits; a process called rectification. This is done using a series of 1-way gates (diodes) in a layout called a bridge rectifier. That’s the diamond shape seen in the diagram above.

This episode, which is embedded after the break, takes a good long look at the concept. One of the things we like best about the presentation is that the hosts of the show talk about actual electron flow. This is always a quagmire with those new to electronics, as schematics portray flow from positive to negative, but electron theory suggests that actual electron flow is the exact opposite. Continue reading “Experimenting with bridge rectifers for AC to DC power conversion”

Power supplies and transformers; a learning experience

[Ladyada] is working on a tutorial series covering power supplies. If you’ve ever built an electronic project you’ve used some type of power supply but we think that most people have no idea how you get from mains power to the DC voltages that most small projects use. So if you want to learn, get started with the first installment which covers AC/DC converters based on a transformer like the one seen above.

These transformers are inside the heavy and hot wall-wart plugs that come with many electronics. We used one along with a breadboard power supply when building the pumpkin LED matrix. They use a pair of coils to step down the voltage to a much smaller level. From there it’s a matter of rectifying the AC into DC power, which she talks about in an easy to follow discussion.

We understand this type of converter quite well but we’re a bit foggy on switch-mode AC/DC converters that don’t use a transformer. They’re much better because you don’t have to build a regulator into the target project like you do with wall-warts. Can’t wait until she gets to that part of the series!

Hacker Housing – Rally to Restore Sanity

HacDC, Washington DC’s own hackerspace has been kind enough to open their doors (and floors) to fellow hackers planning on visiting DC this weekend for the upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity. They are taking registrations now, and space is limited, so act fast. They have a suggested donation of $20 a night, which will get you floor space and breakfast each morning, as well as the warm feeling of supporting a community based Hackerspace. Details can be found on their registration page, and please make sure you read the rules before registering. Thanks again to HacDC for supporting the Hacker community!

In other news, Hack a Day will be at the Rally, so keep an eye out for the writers wearing the Hack a Day shirts, as well as the HackaDay Twitter. If you get seen with one of us, you might just make it to the fan gallery. We will also be handing out some HackaDay Swag if you catch us soon enough on Saturday.

Dead motor? Think again

While hobby brush motors are pretty cheap now adays, there’s always that feeling of why replace when you can rebuild and reuse. As such [John Carr] presents how to change the brush position in motors to revive a dead motor. So long as the motor dies from natural causes commutator wear, the idea is the brushes can be moved along the axes and fixed to a new portion of commutator that’s not worn at all. [John] also goes through the details of some tricky reassembly, but we think to make this complete a guide on brush replacement and commutator replacement might be in order hint hint.

Adjustable breadboard supply

breadboardpowersupply

adafruit industries’ latest product is an adjustable breadboard power supply kit. We’ve seen breadboard supplies before, but like most of adafruit’s kits, this is the best design you’re going to encounter. It uses an MIC2941 voltage regulator instead of the more commonplace LM317. It has a very low dropout which means your output voltage can be much closer to the input voltage. Their example is using 3AAA or a Li-Ion battery for an output of 3.3V. Input can be through a barrel jack or terminal blocks. There is a selection switch for 3.3, 5, and adjustable voltage. Using the adjustment pot you can select an output voltage anywhere from 1.3V to within .5V of the 20V maximum input. The adjusted output voltage will remain the same even if you increase the input voltage. Like all of their kits, you can find schematics, assembly and usage instructions, on their project site.

Distributed computing in JavaScript

mapreduce

We’ve heard about the idea of using browsers as distributed computing nodes for a couple years now. It’s only recently, with the race towards faster JavaScript engines in browsers like Chrome that this idea seems useful. [Antimatter15] did a proof of concept JavaScript implementation for reversing hashes. Plura Processing uses a Java applet to do distributed processing. Today, [Ilya Grigorik] posted an example using MapReduce in JavaScript. Google’s MapReduce is designed to support large dataset processing across computing clusters. It’s well suited for situations where computing nodes could go offline randomly (i.e. a browser navigates away from your site). He included a JavaScript snippet and a job server in Ruby. It will be interesting to see if someone comes up with a good use for this; you still need to convince people to keep your page open in the browser though. We’re just saying: try to act surprised when you realize Hack a Day is inexplicably making your processor spike…

[via Slashdot]

Mobile RFID scanning

[Chris Paget] is going to be presenting at ShmooCon 2009 in Washington D.C. this week. He gave a preview of his RFID talk to The Register. The video above demos reading and logging unique IDs of random tags and Passport Cards while cruising around San Francisco. He’s using a Symbol XR400 RFID reader and a Motorola AN400 patch antenna mounted inside of his car. This is industrial gear usually used to track the movement of packages or livestock. It’s a generation newer than what Flexilis used to set their distance reading records in 2005.

The unique ID number on Passport Cards doesn’t divulge the owners private details, but it’s still unique to them. It can be used to track the owner and when combined with other details, like their RFID credit card, a profile of that person can be built. This is why the ACLU opposes Passport Cards in their current form. The US does provide a shielding sleeve for the card… of course it’s mailed to you with the card placed outside of the sleeve.

Technology exists to generate a random ID every time an RFID card is being read. The RFIDIOt tools were recently updated for RANDOM_UID support.

[Thanks Zort]