Hackaday Links: April 5, 2015

[Dino] found something pretty cool at Walmart. It’s a USB Lighter; basically a car cigarette lighter that’s powered by a battery and charged via USB. A few bucks will buy you a battery, charge controller, and USB plug that will deliver over 2 amps at 3.7 Volts.

Speaking of battery chargers, here’s something from [Thomas]. He works in a hospital, and the IV pumps have a terrible charging circuit. After a few dozen chargers, they’ll give a battery error on the screen. They’re not bad, only unbalanced. [Thomas] made a simple rig with a Tenergy battery charger to rebalance the packs. No link, but here’s a pic. It beats paying $34 for a new battery pack.

Those Silhouette Cameo blade cutters don’t get enough respect. You can make vinyl stickers or an Arduino-themed pop up card.

Retroreflective spraypaint. Volvo has developed something called Lifepaint. It’s for bicycles and bicycle riders. Apparently, it’s clear when you spray it on, but if you shine a light on it – from a car’s headlight – it will reflect back. Any cool ideas here?

The Art of Electronics, 3rd edition, is finally out. Didn’t we hear about this a few months ago? Yes, we did. It’s shipping now, though, and there’s a sample. It’s chapter nine, voltage regulation and power conversion.

Ah, April Fool’s. I’m still proud of the Prince post, but there were some great ones this year. RS Components had Henry the Hover Drone, but we really like the protoboard with ground planes.

The market wasn’t always flooded with ARM dev boards. For a while the LeafLabs Maple was the big kid on the block. Now it’s reached end of life. If only there were a tree whose name ended in ~ino…

The Platinum Catalyst Use in a Vintage Lighter

[Ben Krasnow] has an inimitable knack for choosing the most interesting concepts for his experiments. We’re sure it’s a combination of base knowledge and epic-curiosity. This time around he’s showing off a vintage cigarette lighter whose quirk is not needing to be “struck” to produce a flame. It’s a catalytic lighter that uses platinum to ignite methanol vapors.

The concept shown in the video below is platinum’s catalyst properties with some types of flammable gasses. The image above shows the cap of the lighter which includes a protective cage around a hunk of fine platinum powder known as platinum black. It is suspended by platinum wire and as the hydrogen passes by the reaction causes the platinum black and wire to glow red-hot.

This simple, quick experiment fills in our own knowledge gaps. We were already familiar with the role that catalytic converters play in automobiles; consuming any unburned hydrocarbons before they exit a vehicle’s exhaust system. We also know the these devices are targets for thieves seeking the platinum (and other metals like palladium and rhodium) found inside. Now we know exactly how catalytic converters work and the integral role that platinum plays in the process. All thanks to [Ben’s] demonstration of how this lighter works.

Now, if you wear a platinum wedding band and your hand passes a jet of hydrogen are you likely to get burned?

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Kruger’s Zippo Remote


Inspired by the detonator in the Captain America: The First Avenger movie, [Jon] modified a normal Zippo lighter to activate a relay on a receiver module. His instructables shows how to create such a device by adjusting the insert in such a way that if someone flipped it open, all they would see would be a flint wheel, flint, wick, and all that stuff; nothing would be abnormal. In order to do this, the components would have to be perfectly concealed.

To acquire a remote signal, [Jon] used the whole metal case as an antenna instead of replacing the wick with one. An antenna pin on an RF module was attached to the insert to get the necessary effect. The flint wheel was then turned into a button and a notification LED was installed. Once the code was uploaded and a receiver module was fashioned together, the end product produced a flash of sparks on the other end.

This hack was made for educational use, and is only meant for demonstration purposes.

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Laser cigarette lighter makes smoking even more dangerous

Dangers involved with using this laser cigarette lighter to start off your smoking session include shooting your eyes out and giving yourself a mean Harry Potter style forehead scar. This thing boasts a two Watt laser diode which has no problem burning everything that comes in contact with it.

[Masterjoa3000] shows you how it was built in the video after the break. You need to acquire the diode and support hardware which acts as a heat sink. These are press-fit together before wires are attached to the positive and negative leads. The housing is just a bit too wide for the wind shield on the lighter, but that is fixed by cutting a ‘V’ out of the center of that shielding. Next comes a minuscule driver board which is soldered to the diode and to a momentary push switch. The switch takes the place of the flint so that pressing down on the striking wheel activates the laser. The whole thing still fits in the unaltered outer case.

Here’s another take on the same idea with the laser pointing in a different direction.

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Mini-cannon built from a BBQ lighter fires Airsoft pellets

[Nighthawkinlight] has made his own palm cannon to shoot Airsoft pellets. His process, which he guides us through step-by-step in the video after the break, definitely invokes MacGyver buy using commonly available parts in a way they were not intended.

He starts with a barbecue lighter, removing the screws and plastic housing to get at the clear plastic butane reservoir which serves as the body of the cannon. The butane is carefully released from the tank, and the output valve is modified to receive the barrel. In this case the barrel from an old Airsoft gun was used, but a metal pen housing could do the trick as well. The spark igniter from the lighter is also reused, but two bolts have been screwed into the reservoir and are used as probes for the igniter wires. In order to fire this one-shot-wonder, a cotton swab soaked in 90% alcohol is inserted through the bolt on the left side. After inserting an Airsoft pellet the trigger is pulled to ignite the vapors.

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Controlling fire with your mind (and your thumb)


[TechB] is using his mind to control fire. Well, what he’s really doing is using a Mindflex to control a lighter.

Many will remember the Mindflex from this shockingly awesome hack. But [TechB’s] approach follows in the footsteps of this Arduino interface for the device. He’s using the Arduino Brain Library to read data from the head-mounted EEG and sending commands to his own fire control system. Said system is composed of a cigarette lighter and a servo motor. The motor connects to the gas regulator on the lighter, opening it up when you concentrate and closing it when your mind wanders. The result is a higher flame to show more organized brain function. The only problem with the prototype is the burns you’ll get on your thumb from depressing the lighter’s valve while trying to get your thoughts in order.

Check out the video after the break to see this in action. [TechB] is looking a bit like the Borg at the beginning of the clip, making us wonder what other Mindflex hacks he’s already performed.

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Laser projector zippo

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “I wish I had a laser projector hidden in a zippo”, then you’ll really appreciate this project.  [Rog8811], who you might remember from the laser lighter, has made a spirograph style green laser projector that fits inside his zippo. This is very compact and you would have no idea it was there until you open it up. Just be careful, this seems perfect for causing eye damage to someone who isn’t expecting a laser to shoot out of your zippo.