That’s not beer! A biofuel fermentation controller project


Any home brewer will recognize the setup pictured above as a temperature controlled fermentation chamber. They wouldn’t be wrong either. But you’re not going to drink what results. This project is aimed at providing a temperature controlled environment for fermenting biofuel.

[Benjamin Havey] and [Michael Abed] built the controller as their final project in his microprocessor class. The idea is to monitor and control the mini-refrigerator so that the strain of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae yeast produce as much ethanol as possible. An MSP430 microcontroller was used. It monitors a thermister with its analog to digital converter and drives a solid state relay to switch mains power to the fridge. At 41 degrees Fahrenheit this is down below what most lager yeasts want (which is usually in the low fifties). But the nice thing about using a microcontroller is you can set a schedule with different stages if you find a program that gives the yeast the best environment but requires more than one temperature level.

Who knew all that beer making was getting you ready to produce alternative fuels?

Toaster oven reflow control without modifying the oven

[Eberhard] wanted his own reflow oven but didn’t really want to mess around with the internals that control the heating element. He put his microcontroller programming experience to work and came up with an add-on module that controls the oven by switching the mains power.

The image above shows a board in the midst of the reflow process. If you’re not familiar, solder paste usually comes with a recommended heat curve for properly melting the slurry. [Eberhard] managed to fit three of these temperature profiles into his firmware.

The ATtiny45 which makes up the controller samples oven temperature via the thermistor seen next to the board. A PID algorithm is used to calculate when to switch mains power on and off via a relay. One button and one LED make up the controller’s user interface for scrolling through the three preprogrammed temperature profiles.

It looks like it works great, see for yourself in the clip after the break.

Continue reading “Toaster oven reflow control without modifying the oven”

Spaduino heats up a used hot-tub

[Ryan] and the roomies decided that a hot tub was just what they needed to spice up the place. They hit Craig’s List and found one for the right price. After acquisition and setup they were pleased to find that the jets and pump worked great. But you’re not going to want to stick as much as your big toe into this ice-cold cryogenics experiment. Some poking around in the control system exposed the dead relays which are responsible for switching the heater. Instead of swapping the parts, [Ryan] began building a control system that will replace the twenty-year-old original.

The heating element still works, but it’s rated at 5.5 kW and here’s no way to automatically switch it on and off. [Ryan] found a 60 Amp solid state relay which can handle the load, and plays nicely with his Arduino. Initial tests got the tub up and running again. Obviously you want the tub to maintain temperature and so a thermistor was added to take readings from the heater core. There’s also a potentiometer to adjust the temperature, and an LCD screen to show the current settings. But [Ryan] hopes to add more features over time, like incorporating jet control, and adding wireless communications via an Xbee module.

ChipKIT temperature shield supports a dozen sensors


[Will] wrote in to share a useful add-on he designed for the ChipKIT UNO 32, a 12-port temperature sensor board.

Constructed for one of his customers, the shield accepts any 2-wire 10k thermistor sensors, outputting the readings to a small LCD screen. The screen is supported by some code put together by his associate [crenn], but you are not limited to solely displaying the temperatures there. Since this module piggybacks on top of the ChipKIT the same fashion as any standard shield, you clearly have the ability to use and manipulate the data at will. With 12 ports on board this would work well for a house-wide temperature monitoring system, or perhaps in a complex brewing setup.

Both the temperature shield and LCD boards have been released under the Open Source Hardware License, so you can easily build your own if you have the means, though [Will] has a few extras he’s willing to sell if you need one quickly.

Fan throttling for PS3 temperature control

This setup will let you monitor Play Station 3 temperatures and throttle the cooling fan accordingly. [Killerbug666] based the project around an Arduino board, and the majority of the details about his setup are shared as comments in the sketch that he embedded in his post. He installed four thermistors in his PS3 on the CPU heatsink, the GPU heatsink, the Northbridge or Emotion Engine, and one in front of the air intake grate to measure ambient room temperature.

Above you can see the setup he used to display temperatures for each sensor on a set of 7-segment displays. The project also includes the ability to push this data over a serial connection for use with a computer or a standalone system.

The project is still in a prototyping stage. It works, but he likens the fan throttling to the sound of a car engine constantly revving. Future plans include smoothing out the fan speed corrections and scaling down the size of the hardware used in the system. We’d suggest doing away with three of the displays and adding a button that lets you select which set of sensor data you’d like to display.

[Thanks User]

Dishwasher notifier for the absent-minded


[Quinn] over at BlondiHacks is admittedly pretty absent-minded when it comes to household chores such as emptying the dishwasher. She often can’t remember if the dishes are dirty or ready to be put away, so she decided it was time to devise a mechanism that would help keep her on task. She originally considered a double-sided sign that said “Clean” on one side, “Dirty” on the other, but she chose the fun option and decided to over-engineer the problem instead.

She ultimately focused on two conditions that she needed to monitor: when the dishwasher had been run, and when the dishes have been emptied. To tackle the first condition, she used a thermistor to detect when the door of the dishwasher got hot from the wash cycle. The second wasn’t quite as easy, since she often peeks into the dishwasher to grab a clean dish when needed, unloading the rest later. She eventually settled on using a tilt switch to monitor the angle of the door, assuming that the dishes have been removed if the door was open for over a minute.

[Quinn] reports that her Dish-o-Tron 6000 works well, and she had a good time building it. Sure the whole thing is kind of overkill, but where’s the fun in moderation?

Skillet reflow controller

Using an electric skillet to reflow surface mount circuit boards is a popular alternate use for those kitchen appliances. The real trick is monitoring and controlling the temperature. [Mechatronics Guy] built his own skillet temperature controller using a thermistor, a solid state relay, and an Arduino.

He was inspired by [Ladyada’s] work which used a servo to adjust the temperature dial on the skillet’s power supply. This started by attaching the thermistor to the bottom of the skillet using JB weld. since this area will be heating up he also attached a terminal block for connecting the feed wires as the heat would melt any solder joints. Those wires travel back to a control box housing the Arduino and solid state relay. To gain finer control over the heating element the relay is switched on and off, resulting in low-frequency Pulse Width Modulation, which should help maintain a consistent temperature better than just turning the temperature dial on the cord.

Pair this up with the vacuum tweezers hack and you’re on your way to a surface mount assembly line. If you want to see this process in action check out this post. It goes from stenciling, to populating, to reflowing in a toaster oven.

[Thanks Rob]