Wax Motors Add Motion to Your Projects

[electronicsNmore] has uploaded a great teardown and tutorial video (YouTube link) about wax motors. Electric wax motors aren’t common in hobby electronics, but they are common in the appliance industry, which means the motors can be often be obtained cheaply or for free from discarded appliances. Non-electric wax motors have been used as automotive coolant thermostats for years.  Who knows, this may be just what the doctor ordered for your next project.

As [electronicsNmore] explains, wax motors are rather simple devices. A small block of wax is sealed in a metal container with a movable piston. When heated, the wax expands and pushes the piston out. Once the wax cools, a spring helps to pull the piston back in.

The real trick is creating a motor which will heat up without cooking itself. This is done with a Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) thermistor. As the name implies, a PTC thermistor’s resistance increases as it heats up. This is the exact opposite of the Negative Temperature Coefficient (NTC) thermistors we often use as temperature sensors. PTC’s are often found in places like power supplies to limit in rush current, or small heating systems, as we have in our wax motor.

As the PTC heats up, its resistance increases until it stops heating. At the same time, the wax is being warmed, which drives out the piston. As you might expect, wax motors aren’t exactly efficient devices. The motor in  [electronicsNmore’s] video runs on 120 volts AC. They do have some advantages over solenoid, though. Wax motors provide smooth, slow operation. Since they are resistive devices, they also don’t require flyback diodes, or create the RF noise that a solenoid would.

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Kindle Gets Downgraded to an Expensive Thermostat

E-readers are awesome, don’t get us wrong — but if you have an old one collecting dust, why not use it for something? [John] decided to hack his old Kindle  to act like a thermometer!

The Kindle’s Linux OS is re-purposed to use the Freescale CPU’s internal temperature sensor as a thermometer — since it’s not doing anything most the time, it should be relatively accurate of the ambient temperature.

Unlike some of [John’s] earlier hacks, this one is completely self-contained and reversible. In fact, it’s just a few scripts that check the temperature every minute and then display it in large digits on the screen. The buttons allow you to convert units or reverse boot to the original Kindle software. It can even graph the recent temperature! It makes for a very easy to read outdoor thermometer.

And not to waste all of its hardware features, [John] also set it up to act as a web server, sending the temperature data via port 8014.

You could also take it a step further and have a full weather station, in a nice wooden frame.