3-phase Jacob’s ladder

Two sparks are better than one, a sentiment that was never more blindingly illustrated than with this three-conductor Jacob’s Ladder. The build centers around three-phase power, which uses a trio of alternating current sources sharing the same frequency, but offset by 1/3 from one another. If we’re reading the schematic correctly, [Jimmy Proton] is using normal mains as a power source, then connecting three transformers and a capacitor to set up the different phases. Two of the transformers, which were pulled from microwave ovens, are wired in antiparallel, with their cores connected to each other. The third transform is connected in series on one leg of the circuit.

The video after the break starts with the satisfying hum of power, only to be outdone by the wild sparks that traverse the air gap between conductors of the ladder. After seeing the first demonstration we kind of expected something to start on fire but it looks like all is well. We’ll probably stick to a less complicated version of Jacob’s Ladder.

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More high voltage experimentation with a flyback inverter

[Electorials] actually makes working with a flyback inverter sound rather easy. This comes hot on the heals of the huge high voltage collection we saw the other day, but slows way down in the presentation of information. This makes the project very approachable for the newbie, especially considering that the majority of the testing is done with low voltages.

He’s using a flyback transform for this project, which can be pulled from an old CRT monitor. Once you have one in hand, all that’s required to figure out how to use it is a voltometer, a 9V battery, a MOSFET (also salvaged in this case), and miscellaneous components. Once he establishes what each external connection does electronically, [Electorials] builds his circuit on a breadboard, then uses it to create plasma in the bulb above as well as to light up a CCFL.

Building linear amplifier prototypes

We know way too little about this subject but hopefully [Bob4analog] helped us learn a little bit more this time around. He’s building his own linear amplifiers on what looks like sheets of MDF. This is an evolving design and the two videos after the break show two different iterations. He’s salvaged several components, like transformers from microwaves, as well as built his own components like the plate choke to the right of the tubes in the image above. In standby, the amp sits at 2800 volts, warming the filament before the unit is switched on.

So what’s he got planned for this? Good question, but it appears that there’s more than enough power to drive a long-range transmitter.

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Power supplies and transformers; a learning experience

[Ladyada] is working on a tutorial series covering power supplies. If you’ve ever built an electronic project you’ve used some type of power supply but we think that most people have no idea how you get from mains power to the DC voltages that most small projects use. So if you want to learn, get started with the first installment which covers AC/DC converters based on a transformer like the one seen above.

These transformers are inside the heavy and hot wall-wart plugs that come with many electronics. We used one along with a breadboard power supply when building the pumpkin LED matrix. They use a pair of coils to step down the voltage to a much smaller level. From there it’s a matter of rectifying the AC into DC power, which she talks about in an easy to follow discussion.

We understand this type of converter quite well but we’re a bit foggy on switch-mode AC/DC converters that don’t use a transformer. They’re much better because you don’t have to build a regulator into the target project like you do with wall-warts. Can’t wait until she gets to that part of the series!

Bench supply with current limiting

This is a bench power supply with adjustable voltage and current limiting. [Sylvain's] creation can regulate 0-25 volts while sourcing 0-5 amps. Current limiting is a nice feature as it will allow you to test your prototypes to ensure the power regulator you choose will not be over or underpowered.

This supply is really a two-in-one. The case has two separate circuits so that you can have different power rails going at the same time. There is a microcontroller involved, but the ATmega32 doesn’t do anything more than measure the voltage and amperage and drive the graphic LCD screen. Two potentiometers are responsible for setting the voltage and limiting the current.

[Thanks Sargonout]

Replacement refrigerator controller

[Michael] got his hands on a refrigerator that he intended to store beer in but found that it ran constantly. Instead of buying a new thermostat he and his friend [Doug] set out to build an Arduino-based controller for the fridge.

The finished project will switch 240v so they’ve used a transformer to power the logic circuitry and a solid state relay to handle the load switching, with a Dallas 1820 for temperature data. Because the Arduino offers more capabilities than the average thermostat hack they also decided to tap into its potential by adding an Ethernet shield. We see the Arduino as a prototyping device and so do these folks. Once the bugs in their first PCB prototype are worked out the circuit will use the ATmega328 and do away with the Arduino.

[via @littlebirdceo]

Ionocraft aka Lifters

It’s hard to believe that in five years we haven’t covered lifters before. This realization was sparked when [Tyler] tipped us off about a lifter project demonstrated at the Kansas City hackerspace called CCCKC.

Lifters, the casual name for ionocraft, fly without combustion or moving parts. We’re not going to tackle the particulars of what makes flight possible, but high voltage is required to feed the phenomenon that provides the lift. One of the first comments when we asked what to do with old CRT monitors was to use them for lifters. The flyback transformer puts out plenty of voltage if you can tap into it without killing yourself (no, seriously, that’s an issue).

This is the method that the CCCKC folks used. Take a peek at the video after the break. If you’re thirsting for more fun with lifters, stop by the Lifter Project.

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