Last week, we heard of an interesting Kickstarter that puts a capacitor and charging circuit in the same space as a AA battery. This is usually a very simple endeavour, but this capacitor has the same energy density as an alkaline cell. The chemistry inside this capacitor was initially attributed to lithium ion, and a few people in the comments section were wondering how this was possible. The math just didn’t seem to add up.
The guy behind this Kickstarter, [Shawn West], recently spilled the beans on these… interesting capacitors. Apparently, they’re not lithium ion capacitors at all, but graphene capacitors. Graphene capacitors you can buy. On Kickstarter. Graphene capacitors, also known as the thing that will change everything from smartphones to electric vehicles, and everything in between. I will admit I am skeptical of this Kickstarter.
Apparently, these graphene supercaps are in part designed and manufactured by [Shawn] himself. He fabricates the graphene by putting graphite powder in a ball mill for a day, adding a bit of water and surfactant, then running the ball mill for another few days. The graphene then floats to the top where it is skimmed off and applied to a nonconductive film.
There’s absolutely nothing that flies in the face of the laws of physics when it comes to graphene capacitors – we’ve seen a few researchers at UCLA figure out how to make a graphene supercap. The general consensus when it comes to graphene supercaps is something along the lines of, ‘yeah, it’ll be awesome, in 10 years or so.’ I don’t think anyone thought the first graphene capacitors would be available through Kickstarter, though.
I’m a little torn on this one. On one hand, graphene supercaps, now. On the other hand, graphene supercaps on Kickstarter. I’m not calling this a scam, but if [Shawn]’s caps are legit, you would think huge companies and governments would be breaking down his door to sign licensing agreements.
Post your thoughts below.
Lithium ion supercapacitors. No, not lithium ion batteries, and yes, they’re a real thing. While they’re astonishingly expensive per Farad, they are extremely small and used as the first line of defense in some seriously expensive heavy-duty UPS installations. Here’s a Kickstarter using these supercaps to replace the common AA, C, and D cell batteries. Even better, they can be recharged in seconds.
For each size battery, the caps used actually have a slightly higher energy density than a similarly sized dollar store battery. By adding a little bit of circuitry to drop the 3.8 Volts out of the cap down to the 1.5 V you expect from a battery, this supercap becomes a very expensive rechargeable battery, but one that can be recharged in seconds.
This is one of those crowdfunding campaigns we really like: an interesting tool, but something we just can’t figure out what the use case would be. These lithium ion supercaps are too expensive to be practical in anything we would build (save for a Gauss pistol), but the tech is just too cool to ignore. If you have a use case for these caps in mind, please leave a note in the comments.
Somewhat relevant Mouser link.
Back in 1996, a group of engineering students at McMaster University set out to build a fully functional hot tub housed in a working car. They chopped up an abandoned 1982 Chevy Malibu and converted it into The Carpool.
That group of students graduated, and began work on the Carpool DeVille. Six years later, they’re ready to take it to Bonneville Salt Flats to claim the title of “world’s fastest hot tub.”
There has been some substantial modifications to the vehicle to make the Carpool a reality. A custom fibreglass tub was built to drop into the passenger compartment, and heat exchangers were added to the stock engine system to heat the water. The plumbing and pumps for the tub reside in the truck, while the original V8 engine is up in the front. A custom air suspension system allows them to carry the massive volume of water. There’s even a marine throttle to control gas and brake from the driver’s seat in the tub.
The folks behind the Carpool DeVille ran a Kickstarter to fund their race costs. The campaign is over, but you can still check out the story and pictures of the conversion. Since it was a successful campaign, we’re looking forward to seeing this custom vehicle out on the salt flats.
Battery powered soldering irons are nothing new, but what about a soldering iron that can recharge via USB? [Solarcycle] realized that it might be handy to be able to recharge a portable soldering iron using such a ubiquitous connector and power source, so he developed the Solderdoodle.
The core component of the Solderdoodle is a Weller BP645 Soldering Iron. The heating element is removed from the Weller and placed into a custom case. The case is designed to be 3d printed. The STL files for the case are available if you want to make your own.
The Solderdoodle does away with large, disposable batteries and replaces them with a lithium ion battery pack. The battery contains no built-in protection circuitry in order to save space. Instead, this circuit is added later. [Solarcycle] appears to be using a circuit of his own design. The schematic and Gerber’s are available on his website.
The Instructable walks through all of the steps to build one of these yourself if you are so inclined. If you don’t have the spare time, you can fund the project’s Kickstarter and pre-order a production model. It’s always great to see a new commercial product with an open design.
SOAP, the people behind what was initially a sketchy Kickstarter that turned into something reasonable is having another go at crowdfunding their touchscreen router with every radio imaginable. This time, however, they’ve crossed all their ts and dotted all their lowercase js to turn what was a very…. odd Kickstarter into something really cool.
The original specs of the SOAP router were impressive – basically, a touchscreen tablet with an ARM Cortex A9, USB 3.0, 802.11ac, gigabit LAN, and every radio module you could imagine. The goal, of course, being a completely open, hackable home automation system capable of talking to Zigbee and Z Wave, and X10 modules, all while being an easy to configure 802.11ac router with a touchscreen. It’s a great idea, and considering you could spend $200 on an ac router alone, without all the radio modules and touchscreen.
Judging from the updates to the original Kickstarter, the SOAP guys have come a long way in three months. They’ve moved away from a custom-designed iMX6 board to a Congatec System on Module in a move that could be described as the smartest move in the history of Kickstarter-funded consumer electronics. They’ve also fixed the Ethernet bandwidth limitation of the iMX6, although there’s no word on how that works.
To be fair, the SOAP Kickstarter should be studied by business students as the exact opposite of how you should run a Kickstarter. When the project first went up, there were inconsistencies that ranged from not having a functional prototype to lifting images from unrelated open source projects. In the past three months, though, it looks like the team has managed to pull something together. Whether or not the SOAP router will see the light of day remains to be seen, but the team is now in a much better position than they were three months ago.
Yes, dogfighting with RC planes is cool. You know what’s even cooler? RC jousting. Considering these eight foot long planes are probably made of foam board or Depron, they’ll probably hold up for a fairly long time. The perfect application of RC FPV.
Home automation is the next big thing, apparently, but it’s been around for much longer than iPhones and Bluetooth controllable outlets and smart thermostats. Here’s a home automation system from 1985. Monochrome CRT display panel (with an awesome infrared touch screen setup), a rat’s nest of wiring, and a floor plan drawn in ASCII characters. It’s also Y2K compliant.
Here’s an idea for mobile component storage: bags. Instead of tackle and tool boxes for moving resistors and other components around, [Darcy] is using custom bags made from polyethylene sheets, folded and sealed with an impulse sealer. It’s not ESD safe, but accidentally zapping a LED with an ESD would be impressive.
Need a stepper motor test circuit? Easy, just grab one of those Polulu motor drivers, an ATtiny85, wire it up, and you’re done. Of course then you’re troubled with people on the Internet saying you could have done it with a 555 timer. This one is for them. It’s a 555, some wire, and some solder. Could have done it with discrete transistors, though.
Someone figured out Lego Minifigs can hold iDevice charge cables. +1 for the 1980s spaceman.
Remember that “electronic, color sensing, multicolor pen” idea that went around the Internet a year or so ago? It’s soon to be a Kickstarter, and man, is this thing full of fail. They’re putting an ARM 9 CPU in a pen. A pen with a diameter of 15mm. Does anyone know if an ARM 9 is made in that small of a package? We’ll have a full, “this is a totally unrealistic Kickstarter and you’re all sheep for backing it” post when it finally launches. Also, this.
We went to “the dark room” at Maker Faire once more for an interview with [Sarah] of Robot-Army. She and [Mark], who handles software development for the project, were showing off 30 delta robots who know how to dance. Specifically they’re dancing in unison to the movements of another faire-goer. A Kinect sensor monitors those movements and translates them to matching motions from the deltabots.
You should remember seeing this project back in November. Now that the standards for this model have been worked out it was just a matter of sinking about three-weeks into assembling the army. We’re happy to see that the Kickstarter made it to 250% of the goal at the beginning of March, and with that there are even bigger plans. [Sarah] says the goal remains to fill a room with the robots and a we may even see a much larger version some day.
The interview is a bit short since the Robot-Army booth was right next to Arc Attack (hence the noise-cancelling headphones) and we had to try to get in and out between their ear-drum-shattering interruptions. But you can see a ton more about the project in this huge build log post over on Hackaday.io. Also check out the Robot-Army webpage. There’s a nice illustration of their adventures at MFBA and the foam Jolly Wrencher made it into the piece!