Solar clock uses capacitors for style and function

solar-clock-uses-storage-capacitors-and-batteries

This solar clock was built using a lot of salvaged parts. We find it interesting that [Nereus] combined a ring of storage capacitors with a power cell (translated) to create a hybrid energy storage setup.

The machine translation makes it a bit rough to understand how this works, but the schematic helps quite a bit. The pair of solar cells, which were pulled from some cheap solar cellphone chargers, feed the bank of capacitors encircling the clock face. If placed in a room that gets plenty of sunlight the cells will top off the capacitors which then feed an ICL7663 regulator. We’d love to hear comments on this part choice, as it’s our experience that linear regulators are rather inefficient. But anyway, the regulated power feeds both the energy cell as well as the clock motor. When output from the regulator dips the battery picks up the slack. The project also includes a voltometer and thermometer which can be displayed on the tiny LCD screen just about the six o’clock tick mark.

Now if you want something completely battery-free you’ll have to check out [Jack Buffington's] take on solar clock.

[Thanks Manekinen]

LTC3105 and LTC3109 energy harvesting chips

a-look-at-energy-harvester-chips

[Shahriar] devoted the lastest episode of The Signal Path to looking at energy harvesting chips. These parts are designed to gather energy from non-traditional sources as efficiently as possible. The full episode, which is embedded after the break, is about one hour long. It starts with a bit of background about the nature of these parts, and a brief overview of the wide-range of chips available. Each is suited for a different type of energy source.

He moves on to test and explain the LTC3105 and the LTC3109. The former is shown above on a development board. [Shahriar] hooks it up to his bench equipment to compare its performance to the published specs. This culminates in a circuit that uses a solar cell as the source with a super capacitor used as storage. The latter is connected to a Peltier cooler and used to convert the potential energy of ice cubes to electrical energy which charges his iPhone for about thirty seconds. This might be useful in that Peltier generator we saw last week.

[Read more...]

Flashing LEDs protect livestock from lion attacks

When we think of defense against lion attacks, the first thought is usually guns. Lots and lots of guns.  [Richard Turere], a 13 year old Kenyan tinkerer with neither books nor any technical education, has come up with something entirely different – He’s keeping the lions at bay with a solar powered system of flashing LEDs. Yup. Flashing LEDs.

Since he and his family live next to Nairobi National Park, lion attacks are an ever present danger. The only defense systems available were far too expensive for his family to afford, so he decided to build his own. He utilized the basic resources he had readily available: LED bulbs removed from broken flashlights, some switches, an old car battery, wire, and a solar panel that also operates his family’s TV.

The results speak for themselves. His family has had no lion attacks in over two years, and at least five of his neighbors believe in the system enough to have had him install it on their fences too. With the cost for this set up at less than ten dollars, and all the parts being readily available, this rather basic electrical system is an amazing breakthrough for the Kenyan pastoralists.

We look forward to seeing more of [Richard's] inventions. Way to go!

More LED Madness!

So last week [Caleb] posted an article about hacking a floating LED ball.  In response, here’s a couple simple LED hacks or repurposings that I’ve come up with recently.

glow-cube-LED

LED Solar Glow Cube: If you’ve ever seen path lights lighting up people’s gardens or walkways you may have wondered what components they had in them and how they could be repurposed.  As shown in this article, there’s not much too them other than a circuit board, rechargeable battery, and, of course, a solar panel. Combine this with some leftover foam with a hole in it, and you have the device pictured above.  Really simple, but the results are pretty cool as seen in the video after the break.

LED light-nunchucks

LED Nunchucks: If you thought that wheel lights were only for actual wheels, than you haven’t seen these nunchucks built with some PVC pipe and acceleration-sensitive wheel lights. This may not be much of a “hack” in that they are quite easy to build, but the results are pretty neat, being fun to sling around or even for use in long-exposure photography.  Check out the videos after the break of these nunchucks in action and of some LED light paintings that can be made with them. [Read more...]

A perpetually powered wireless outpost

For [Justin], the topic of remotely powering electronics in the field comes up often. So often in fact he decided to put up a tutorial for powering electronics from solar power and batteries, as well as sending and retrieving data with the help of a cellular connection.

The electronics [Justin] chose for his remote wireless project include an AT&T 3G connection to the Internet provided by a Beaglebone, BeagleTouch display, and BeagleJuice battery pack. Of course an Arduino had to make it into this project, so a few light sensors were wired into a few Arduino Unos and connected to the Beaglebone.

After finding a few deep cycle boat batteries, [Justin] wired up a pair of solar panels that put out about 200 mA in full sun. This equates to about 2700 mAh a day, about 300 mAh more than his Beaglebone/Arduino/3G connection/WiFi setup needs per day.

As for what [Justin] can do with his wireless outpost, it makes setting up remote sensors for agriculture a breeze, and could easily be used to automagically send pictures from a game camera straight to a web page. Pretty neat, and very useful if you need to wire up sensors in the field to the Internet.

[Read more...]

Raspberry Pi keeps tabs on your solar power setup

raspberrypi-solarlogger

[Brian Dorey] has been adding green power solutions to his home for some time now, and as things have progressed, he has experimented with several different iterations of data loggers. The latest system watching over his solar power setup is a Raspberry Pi armed with a custom-built I2C analog/digital converter.

The Rasp Pi is responsible for monitoring several different temperature sensors related to his solar water heating and storage system, but that’s just the beginning. It also keeps watch over his roof-mounted solar electric panels, his battery bank, and its charge controller. For good measure, he also monitors his home’s temperature and his water tank’s recirculation pump because, why the heck not?

All of the collected data is relayed to his web server where it is handsomely displayed for his perusal and analysis. [Brian] has made his code available here, so you can monitor your home in the same fashion with little fuss.

Driving your home appliances with hybrid power

This system of hybridizing your home’s electric appliances is an interesting take on solar energy. It focuses on seamlessly switching appliances from the grid to stored solar energy as frequently as possible. There’s a promo video after the break that explains the setup, but here’s the gist of it.

Follow along on the pictograph above. We start on the left with solar panel. This feeds to a charger that tops off a 12V battery. When that battery is full, the charger feeds to the inverter which converts the 12V DC to 110V AC power. This is fed to a pass-through which is in between the appliance (in this a case a lamp) and the wall outlet. The pass-through will switch between mains power coming from the outlet, and the 110 coming from the inverter. The homeowner won’t know, or care, which power source is being used. But sunny months should result in lower energy bills. The real question is how long it takes to cover the cost of the system in saved electricity.

[Read more...]

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