An actively cooled cloud chamber

This cloud chamber is designed to keep the environment friendly for observing ionizing radiation. The group over at the LVL1 Hackerspace put it together and posted everything you need to know to try it out for yourself.

A cloud chamber uses a layer of alcohol vapor as a visual indicator of ionizing particles. As the name suggests, this vapor looks much like a cloud and the particles rip though it like tiny bullets. You can’t see the particles, but the turbulence they cause in the vapor is quite visible. Check out the .GIF example linked at the very bottom of their writeup.

The chamber itself uses a Peltier cooler and a CPU heat sink. The mounting and insulation system is brilliant and we think it’s the most reliable way we’ve seen of putting one of these together. Just remember that you need a radioactive source inside the chamber or you’ll be waiting a long time to see any particles. They’re using a test source here, but we saw a cloud chamber at our own local Hackerspace that used thoriated tungsten welding rods which are slightly radioactive.

[Thanks JAC_101]

Scavenging from consumer electronics to make a flame-powered phone charger

[Gigafide] just finished building this flame-powered phone charger. The concept is not new. He grabbed a Peltier cooler and used the temperature differential between a flame and a heat sink to produce electricity used by the charger. If you search around here enough you’ll find plenty of candle-powered devices, and a few hacks that use a Peltier device in a bit more interesting way. But we really like his high-production value video, straightforward explanation of the concepts, and ability to source the components in consumer devices. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed by his video found after the break.

The Peltier device comes out of a USB drink chiller. It is supported by a metal stand made from electrical box covers and threaded rod. Underneath he’s using a gel fuel can used by the food industry, and above he’s got  CPU heat sink and fan. This setup puts out around 1.5V but he’ll need a boost converter to charge a phone with that. A single AA battery charger meant to power your phone in a pinch is perfect for this application.

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Check it out, my clothes are electric. No, seriously

Someday you may be able to use your crotch or armpits to recharge that cellphone. Heck, maybe there won’t even be a battery, just a capacitor which gets its juice from Power Felt, a fabric that converts body heat to electricity.

Now we mention the nether-regions because it’s funny, but also because it makes the most sense. Researchers have developed a fabric containing carbon nanotubes used in a way that generates electricity based on a temperature differential. We figure the areas on the body that have high heat loss would be the most efficient locations for the fabric since it is currently extremely expensive to produce (the hope is that mass-production would reduce cost by orders of magnitude). So we think battery-charging briefs are a definite possibility.

What we see here is a nano-scale Peltier electricity generator. It’s the same concept as this candle-based generator, except the increased efficiency of the Power Felt lets your wasted body heat take the place of the flame.

There’s a white paper on the topic but you can’t get at it without surrendering some [George Washingtons].

[via Reddit and Megadgets]

A Salinometer built for the Science Olympiad

This is a Digital Salinometer which [Daniel Kramnik] built as a Science Olympiad entry. He’s a Junior in High School and when looking for a project to enter into the Water Quality event he was interested in achieving greater accuracy than a mechanical hydrometer provides.

We think the circuit design is very impressive for anyone who hasn’t complete formal training as an engineer, and outstanding for someone as young as [Daniel]. Measurements depend on two main parts, a temperature control and a salinity sensor. These are both necessary because fluctuation in sample temperature will affect the salinity reading.

A Peltier element is used to heat the water sample if it doesn’t fall within a set range of temperatures. From there, an Op-Amp circuit conditions a signal running through the sample, passing an output to the ADC converter chip which drives the three-digit readout. [Daniel] calculates an accuracy within 0.0014%. He must be on the mark because he’s won his regional competition and will soon compete at the state level.

Two ways to convert an electric cooler to a humidor

It’s not a proper humidor in the technical sense (there isn’t any specific way to moderate the humidity) but [Dzzie] came up with a couple of ways to keep his cigars cool in the summer heat.

Both versions use a Coleman electric cooler as the enclosure. This hardware uses a Peltier device to keep it cool inside. The first attempt at use a thermostat with this worked by adding an external relay to switch mains power. A thermostat dial hangs out inside the cooler to give feedback to the relay board. This worked, but it’s a really roundabout approach since the cooler operates on 12V, and this method uses a mains-to-12V adapter. If [Dzzie] decides to hit the road the relay won’t work when the cooler is powered from a 12V cigarette lighter in the car.

The second rendition fixes that issue. He moved to a 12V relay, and used a car cellphone charger to supply the 5V of regulated power his control circuitry needs to operate.

Peltier powered sous-vide rig gets it right every time


It seems that sous-vide cooking is becoming increasingly popular lately. [Meseta] caught the sous-vide bug and wanted to try his hand at it, though he did not have enough money for a premade sous-vide cooker. After seeing a good handful of lackluster DIY sous-vide rigs online, he decided that he would design and build a sous-vide cooker of his own.

He already had a Forebrain microcontroller at his disposal to use as a PID controller, but what he really needed was a cooking vessel. Rather than use an old crock pot or similar device, he purchased a small personal refrigerator that could be used for cooling or heating. The unit ran off a Peltier cooler that could be switched between modes, making it quite easy for him to control.

In his blog, he discusses the modification from beginning to end, and even shows off the results of his cooking endeavors. He hasn’t posted code as of yet, but he says that he is more than happy to share it with anyone who might be interested in building their own sous-vide cooker.

Poor man’s Peltier air conditioner

It’s summer in Germany, and [Valentin’s] room was getting hotter than he could handle. Tired of suffering through the heat, and with his always-on PC not helping matters any, he decided that he must do something to supplement his home’s air conditioner. The result of his labor is the single room poor man’s A/C unit you see above.

He had a spare Peltier cooler sitting around, so he put it to good use as the basis for his air conditioning unit. He sandwiched it between a pair of CPU heatsinks before cramming his makeshift heat pump into a shoe box. Warm air is drawn into the box and across the cold side of the Peltier before being blown back into the room. On the hot side of the box air is also pulled in by a fan, drawing heat away from the unit before being exhausted outdoors through his window.

While he hasn’t quantified the machine’s cooling power, he seems quite happy with the results. We have a spare Peltier kicking around here somewhere, perhaps we should try building one just for grins.