Taking picture of exploding wire

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[Patrick] didn’t just want his name in lights. He wanted his name in glowing plasma explosions, made by sending thousands of volts through a very thin wire.

This project is an experiment in capturing high speed images of exploding wires. [Patrick] wanted to know if he could shape wires in such a way that they would explode into letters of plasma. Of course, photographic proof of this would be needed, and would make for an awesome logo in any event.

To get pictures of wire turning into plasma, [Patrick] first needed to construct the necessary electronics. A simple spark gap was constructed on a large plastic cutting board – an excellent high voltage insulator. The huge capacitors are charged with a pair of high voltage transformers, and the entire assembly is triggered with an optocoupler and a very beefy SCR.

Even though [Patrick] designed the system for a low propagation delay, there was still the matter of capturing an exploding wire on film. The camera delay varied by about 120μs, but with a really great camera trigger, [Patrick] eventually got some impressive pictures.

After getting the electronics and photography portion of the build down, [Patrick] turned to making letters out of expanding plasma. Simply shaping the wire into a letter shape before vaporizing it had no effect, so he turned to 3D printed channels to contain the plasma. After a few attempts, this actually worked, allowing him to form the letters L, U, and X in an expanding ball of vaporized wire.

LCD-based QR clock

Here’s a new take on the QR clock concept that uses an LCD display. The concept comes from the work [ch00f] put into his two versions of a QR clock (both of which used LED arrays). The time of day is encoded using the Quick Response Code standard. This version generates a new code each second which encapsulates date, hour, minute, and second information. If you look at the image on the left you’ll notice the code is not centered. Take a look at the video after the break and you’ll see that’s because it’s bouncing around the LCD like a screensaver. Watch a little longer and you’ll see the psychedelic effects shown in the image on the right.

A PIC32 is driving the display. It’s connected to a DCF77 radio module which feeds the system atomic clock data. The color plasma effects are used to show when the device has locked onto the radio signal.

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Triangle-grid LED display

[Dearmash] put together this RGB LED display using triangles for each pixel. It’s an interesting deviation from the traditional grid layout. There are two video demos after the break. The first is a plasma-style pattern generated in Processing. The second is a spinning color wheel which would be perfect if synchronized with your Photoshop color spinner.

So the physical build is done, and now [Dearmash] is looking for a purpose for the device (isn’t that always the way it happens?). He mentions that the triangular layout looks cool, but makes text display almost impossible. Does anyone have any ideas on how to make this work? Right off the bat we could see side-scrolling a font similar to the Metallica logo’s M and A. Bu there must be some way to group these pixels together into readable characters. If you always use an upward and downward pointed triangle on the same row as a pixel it makes a parallelogram which would be used to display italicization characters.

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Burning plasma screen with breathtaking beauty

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At some point you’ve got to resign yourself to the fact that the TV you’ve been trying to resurrect is just not salvageable. But if you’re knowlegable about working safely with high voltage, you might get quite a show out of it yet. Here [Aussie50] finds beauty in destruction when he fries a large plasma panel from a broken HDTV.

The flyback transformer from a microwave oven drives the display. The video after the break starts off kind of boring at first but before long it takes off. As portions of the display burn out the electric arcs jumping those gaps provide a thrilling view for the remainder of the 14 minutes.

Don’t want to commit to a video that long? Here’s a display that gives up the ghost after just four and a half minutes but we don’t think it’s quite as cool.

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A real, laser-based 3D display

3D display technology is fairly limited. Most 3D displays out there rely on either prisms refracting light from a normal flat-panel display, or shooting lasers into some sort of space-filling device. A few researchers in Japan went with a more unconventional method of making a 3D display that actually lives up to the promises of the displays seen in Star Wars.

From the coverage of this display we’ve found, the green laser demonstration is a scaled-down version that uses water as the display medium. There’s a short clip that shows a red, green, and blue laser projecting a few white voxels into mid-air. The video of both these demonstrations is a bit jumpy, but that’s probably because of the difference in frame rate between the display and camera.

We’re not really sure how the “plasma excitations of air molecules with focused beams” actually work, or even how to control 50,000 of these dots at 15 frames per second. If you’ve got any idea how to build one of these guys, leave a note in the comments.

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Halloween Hacks: Diorama-rama

The folks down at LVL1, the Louisville hackerspace, are throwing a Halloween party. To showcase his building skills, LVL1 member [JAC_101] put together a Halloween diorama featuring the inner workings of Doctor Frankenstein’s laboratory.

There’s a bunch of really neat pieces that make this build great. First up is the LVL1 plasma sign. This sign is four circuits pumping a high voltage charge through Xenon flash tubes. Instead of a bright flash, a very Halloweeny Xenon plasma shoots though the tubes. The sign is constructed from four disposable camera flash circuits.

A few flickering-LED torches light Dr. Franenstein’s lair while the monster is a McDonalds happy meal toy wrapped in surgical tape and painted with UV reactive paint.

In the interests of repurposing existing materials, a plasma disc belt buckle was taken from [Seven of Nine]’s regeneration chamber LVL1’s rave supply cabinet and provides a suitable ‘mad scientist’ aesthetic. A bit of EL wire was thrown in for good measure along with some black lights to activate the UV paint.

While Frankenstein’s lab is missing a hilariously oversize knife switch on the wall, [JAC_101] still pulled off a great build.

High voltage plasma lamp is also tasteful steampunk

Instructables user [Admiral Aaron Ravensdale] just finished a high voltage plasma bulb build that makes creative use of off-the-shelf parts. As a self-described steampunk, [Adm. Ravensdale] also earned some cred by included working gears in his build.

The heart of the build is a “flicker flame” candle light bulb. These light bulbs have two flame-shaped plates inside the bulb to act as electrodes. Instead of the Argon that normally fills an incandescent light bulb, the candle bulb is filled with Neon. When excited, Argon gives off a rather unnatural purple glow – not very convincing for a simulated candle and certainly not steampunk. The Neon in the flickering candle bulb gives off a brilliant orange, perfect for simulating a flame and will surely impress the duchess during afternoon tea.

After the right plasma bulb was found, [The Admiral] scavenged the rest of the high voltage electronics from disposable cameras. Attaching three electrodes to a brass gear, the entire mechanism was made to spin using parts from an old clock and a CD drive motor. We’re always impressed with the scavenging abilities of steampunkers – we’d still be waiting for our gears to arrive if we attempted this. Check out the video of this really cool and very inexpensive plasma bulb after the break.

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