Another switch mode regulator swap for the Raspberry Pi

[Karl Lunt] is working to slim the Raspberry Pi current draw as much as possible. The first step in his journey was to replace the linear voltage regulator with this switch mode version. It’s a step-down voltage regulator circuit with a tiny footprint and a matching price tag (about $10) made by Pololu. It’s small enough to be mounted in the empty space between the LCD ribbon connector and the main processor.

The project was based on the hack we saw at the end of June. But we give much more credit to [Karl] for removing the old part in a safer way. He clipped the two small leads on the bottom of the old part, then used a beefy iron to sufficiently heat the large pad before removing the body of it. With the old part out of the way it’s just a matter of connecting the three wires in the right configuration.

This cut consumption by about 50 mA. He’s hoping to do more by removing the on-board LEDs. His goal is a draw of under 250 mA in order to make it last a reasonable amount of time when running from batteries.

Raspberry Pi power regulator transplant reduces power consumption

If you want to run your Raspberry Pi from something other than a mains power converter, and you’ve got some courage to spare, this hack is right up your alley. [Tom] wrote in with a switch mode power replacement for the RPi’s stock linear regulator. This is the first hack we’ve seen where the RPi’s on-board hardware is being altered and that’s where things get a little scary.

The first thing done was to remove the linear regulator, leaving the unpopulated RG2 footprint seen above. Apparently a rework station wasn’t available as the technique they used describes holding the board up by gripping the regulator with tweezers, then blasting it with a hot air gun. It makes us a bit queasy because the processor chip has a solder footprint you don’t want to mess with.

But apparently all is still well. With the wasteful linear regulator gone a pair of 5v and 3.3V switch regulators inject voltage through the GPIO header. Initial tests show a savings of around 25% but we’d imaging this varies greatly based on load.

Building a better circuit for renewable energy harvesting

[David], [Ian], and [Sajjad] finished and submitted their entry to the ChipKIT challenge just under the wire. They designed and built a maximum power tracking circuit for use with renewable sources. That is to say, this is a voltage regulator for use with solar cells and other generative sources like wind or water power. The idea is to use the best concepts of switch-mode power supply design, but replace the more wasteful parts with circuits that can harness and roll the loss back into the output.

We have to admit, following their development choices from the write-up at the top is a bit rocky. But luckily they filmed an in-depth description of the design choices, as well as a demonstration of the circuit along with various test measurements. If you’ve got twenty minutes and some patience all will become clear in the video after the break.

This will go along great with that bucket-based hydro generator you built.

Continue reading “Building a better circuit for renewable energy harvesting”

Switchmode power supply hacking (power your laser)


[Mike] wanted a better power supply for his argon laser, so he modded some switchmode power supplies. With a few tweaks, he had a few adjustable voltage outputs and a nice solid supply of electrons for his laser projects. If you need a lab quality adjustable power supply for your projects, this is a nice way to get it on the cheap. (He’s in the UK, but the same ideas should apply to us models.