If it hasn’t been made readily apparent to you by now, power grids are astonishing marvels of technology and quite possibly one of the greatest engineering feats of history. Learning how these systems work is easy in theory, but in practice you will be shot if you try to screw around with at a power station. [Tim] and [Marissa] figured there must be an easier way to learn about power grids so they made their own. It’s small, but it still has everything you’d find in high voltage power lines, minus a hundred kilovolts or so.
This mockup of a power grid simulates a power plant by taking a normal DC motor and connecting that to an alternator and transformer. This is two of the simulated generation points, with the third AC/AC power supply serving as a reference generator for synchronizing phase and frequency. It’s only 12V at 60Hz, but it gets the job done.
A power grid isn’t power plants – there’s also transmission line theory. For this, [Tim] and [Marissa] have a few boards packed with inductors to simulate power lines. There are boards for simulated loads, and synchronization systems built on the MSP430.
In the video below, [Marissa] goes over all the ins and out of the system. It’s very well made and excellent for teaching something that can’t be demonstrated without a practical example.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: A Very Small Power Grid”
A group of Harvard chemists have come up with a novel use for fire. Through experimentation, they have been able to build what they call an InfoFuse. As the name implies, it’s essentially a burning fuse that can “transmit” information.
The fuse is made from flash paper, which is paper made from nitrocellulose. Flash paper burns at a relatively constant speed and leaves no smoke or ash, making it ideal for this type of project. The chemists developed a method of conveying information by changing the color of the flame on the paper. You might remember from high school chemistry class that you can change the color of fire by burning different metal salts. For example, burning copper can result in a blue flame. This is the key to the system.
The researchers dotted the flash paper with small bits of metal salts. As the flame reaches these spots, it briefly changes colors. They had to invent an algorithm to convert different color patterns to letters and numbers. It’s sort of like an ASCII table for fire. Their system uses only three colors. The three colors represent eight possible combinations of color at any given time. Just two quick pulses allow the researchers to convey all 26 letters of the English alphabet as well as ten digits and four symbols. In one test, the researchers were able to transmit a 20 character message in less than 4 seconds.
[Ben Krasnow] found the Harvard project and just had to try it out for himself. Rather than use colors to convey information, he took a more simple approach. He started with a basic strip of flash paper, but left large tabs periodically along its length. As the paper burns from end to end, it periodically hits one of these tabs and the flame gets bigger momentarily.
[Ben] uses an optical sensor and an oscilloscope to detect the quantity of light. The scope clearly shows the timing of each pulse of light, making it possible to very slowly convey information via fire. Ben goes further to speculate that it might be possible to build a “fire computer” using a similar method. Perhaps using multiple strips of paper, one can do some basic computational functions and represent the result in fire pulses. He’s looking for ideas, so if you have any be sure to send them his way! Also, be sure to check out Ben’s demonstration video below. Continue reading “This Message will Self Destruct… as You Read It?”
Every year, the ECE department of Carnigie Mellon University hosts Build18, an engineering festival intended to get students out of the classroom and into the workshop. [Andrew Toth] along with team members [Jenna MacCarley], [Peter McHale], and [Nicolas Mellis] have been busy this last week putting together an automatic bicycle transmission.
Most cyclists agree that a cadence of 80 RPM is just about right for most cycling. The team’s transmission uses Hall effect sensors to sense the cadence of the rider and will change to a higher gear if the cadence drops below 60 RPM and a lower gear if the cadence is above 100 RPM.
One of the requirements of the Build18 festival is the completed project must cost less than $250. By using an Arduino Mega and a servo to change gears, the team has a fairly low cost solution to automatically changing bicycle gears.
It’s a very cool project, and hopefully we’ll see a video once the competition is over at noon, EST today.
We realize the transmission fluid of an automobile’s automatic transmission is used to transfer the power from the engine to the drive shaft. But after watching this Department of Defense video from 1954 we now have a full understanding of the principles involved in fluid coupling. Like us, you probably have seen a diagram of a transmission which shows the fan-like blades that are affected by the moving fluid. But it’s worth watching the 12-minute clip after the break to understand how that liquid is moving and why that matters so much in the design. The motion of the rotors, along with the design of the enclosure, causes the fluid to move in a continual corkscrew — the shape of slinky whose ends have been attached to each other. This type of illustration leads to an intuitive understanding of how it’s possible to facilitate an efficient power transfer using a liquid.
Check out some of the comments left in the Reddit thread regarding this film. We agree with [Runxctry]; there’s something about the format of the presentation that makes these informative and engaging to an almost addictive level. But maybe it’s just the engineering geek deep inside that’s cause these feelings?
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Fluid Coupling”
The back story behind [Mike] experimenting with plants as AM radio transmission antennas antennae is rather interesting and worth the short read. But for those who just want the facts, [Mike] took an ATMega324, modified the PWM output into a sinusoidal AM signal (using a simple form of RLC circuitry), and connected the circuit to a plant no plants were harmed in the making of this project. The results? Well we’re not ones who would spoil the surprise, you’ll have to see for yourself in the video after the jump.
Continue reading “Plantenna: the plant antenna”
[AviatorBJP] is building some impressive automatic transmissions using LEGO parts. Your best bet is to check out his YouTube channel as he’s got a slew of videos related to topic. We’ve embedded test footage of first and second generation vehicles as well as the most recent flywheel design after the break. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s look at how the system works.
Each transmission centers on a mechanism that includes hinged arms attached to a central axle. The arms are held together with a rubber band but as the axle spins faster, they overcome the elastic force of the band and begin to pivot outward. This pulls the shaft in one direction, moving its gear up to the next position in the transmission box. To test the system [AviatorBJP] uses a treadmill. A string is attached to the front of the vehicle to keep it in place and the treadmill is switched on to simulate engine power.
This design is quite brilliant, and he’s not keeping it to himself. If you’ve grown tired of the manual LEGO transmission you built, you can follow his multi-video build process to make one of these for yourself.
Continue reading “LEGO automatic transmissions”
[Alan] did an extraordinary job building a computer controlled model gearbox. His project from several years back is based on a dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox that was developed for VW and Audi vehicles. His design uses a gear head motor to provide the locomotion to this transmission. Shifting is computer controlled through serial cable, with servo motors providing the physical motion to change gears. Seeing all these moving parts in the clip after the break might make you a bit dizzy.
This is some extreme model building. It reminds us of the guy who built that aluminum aircraft model that was all over the Internets in December.
Continue reading “Double clutch transmission model”