Making the Arduino sleep the long sleep

Earlier this week, I showed you [Naim Busek’s] kickstarter for his turn signal helmet. In that article I explained that, while the helmet is a neat idea, I was really interested in what [Naim] had told me about his power consumption. ┬áTo put it the shortest way, he has made his arduino sleep so efficiently, it can be waiting for input longer than the battery’s optimum shelf life.

After that article, [Naim] wrote in to give me the details on what he did to achieve such an efficient system. You can read his entire explanation, un altered here.

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DIY Low-power PSU for home server use


[Viktor] decided to replace his old power hungry home server with a model that is much easier on the old electric bill. The new motherboard uses an Intel Atom chip and consumes far less power than its predecessor. He figured there was no reason to use a bulky ATX power supply when all he needed was 12V for the mainboard and a pair of 5V rails for his hard drives, so he decided to build a PSU himself.

He sourced a 100VA toroid transformer as the basis of the power supply due to its popularity with audio amp builders, adding a standard bridge rectifier and smoothing capacitor before regulating the DC output. A pair of switching regulators were added, one for the 6A, 12V, and a second for the 1.5A, 5V supply. The motherboard only requires about 18W at full tilt, so the PSU should be more than sufficient for his needs.

Schematics and board layouts are available for free on his site, if you are in the market for your own DIY low-power PSU.

Looking for more build to suit electronics?  Check out this DIY amp we featured just the other day.

[Thanks, Chris]

Launchpad takes ultra low power to the extreme

We’ve all known the MSP430s under the Launchpad are designed to be low power, but who wants to bet how long the chip can last on only 20F worth of capacitors? A couple of hours? A day at max? [Kenneth Finnegan] setup a MSP430 with supercaps to find out. To make sure the chip is actually running, [Kenneth] programmed it to count from 0 to 9 over a period of 10 seconds, and then reset. To get it ultra low power, the chip is in sleep mode most of the time, and a raw low current LCD is used to display the output. While [Kenneth] simply checks the chip every few hours to see if it’s still counting, a setup much like the Flash Destroyer, tracking a clock and then storing the current value would get a more exact time of death. Either way, it’s been over 3 weeks…and still counting. Video after the rift.

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Low-power wireless home automation sensors

The line between serious research and well-executed hacks has been getting pretty blurry lately. The device above could have been designed in your basement but it actually comes from researchers at the University of Washington. They are working on low-power home automation sensors for monitoring things like humidity, temperature, air quality, and light. The key point in their research has been the use of a home’s electrical system for wireless communication. Operating at 27 MHz has proven quite efficient to the point that one of these modules placed within 10-15 feet of an electrical run can communicate with the rest of the home, powered only by a watch battery projected to last ten years.

That’s kind of exciting, it’s a heck of a lot easier to produce and distribute a set of small boards like this than to run communication wiring throughout the house. Now we just need to pair this with the Air Force’s parasitic power work and there’ll be no need for a battery at all.

[Thanks Sidhant]

Hackit: SheevaPlug


A few months ago, we introduced the SheevaPlug, a 1.2GHz ARM processor with 512Mb of RAM, 2 usb ports, an ethernet port, and an SD card slot. In that article, we asked: “What would you do with one?”. We received tons of responses, 118 comments and counting. Scientific American had a similar idea and asked some “hackers”(MIT students) what they would do with it (thanks, grisspy). We thought maybe we would weigh in with our opinions. Join us after the break and in the comments.

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