Ultrasonic Data Transmission With GNU Radio


When we hear GNU Radio was used in a build, the first thing we think of is, obviously, radio. Whether it’s a using extremely expensive gear or just a USB TV tuner dongle, GNU Radio is the perfect tool for just about everything in the tail end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

There’s no reason GNU Radio can’t be used with other mediums, though, as [Chris] shows us with his ultrasound data transmission between two laptops. He’s transmitting audio from the speakers of one laptop at 23 kHz. It’s outside the range of human hearing, but surprisingly able to be picked up by a cheap desktop mic connected to another laptop. His GNU Radio setup first converts a string of text to a 5-bit packet, modulates it with FSK, and bumps up the signal to 23 kHz. On the other end, the data is decoded by doing the same thing in reverse.

The setup is easily able to reject all audio that isn’t in the specified frequency range; in the video after the break, [Chris] successfully transmits a ‘hello world’ while narrating what he’s doing.

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A Speaking Ultrasonic Distance Sensor


[Klaus] wanted some sort of aid for parking his car, and after running across a $4 ultrasonic sensor, decided to build his own speaking distance sensor (.de, Google Translation).

Inside [Klaus]’ device is an Arduino Uno, an HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor, and an Adafruit Wave Shield. Originally, this parking/distance sensor used a small TFT to display the distance to an object, but after a few revisions, [Klaus] redesigned the device to speak the current distance, courtesy of an SD card and a soothing female voice.

Right now, the voice is set up to speak the distance from an object to the sensor from 10 cm to 1 m in 5cm increments. This isn’t the limit of the sensor, though, and the device can be easily reconfigured to sense a distance up to four meters.

The board doesn’t have an amplifier or speaker, but with the addition of a small amplifier, [Klaus]’ device is loud enough to be heard in even the noisiest environments.

Video demo below.

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DIY Ultrasonic acoustic levitation

[Mike] saw a few videos of ultrasonic acoustic levitation rigs put together by student researchers. Figuring it couldn’t be that hard to replicate, he set out and built his own using surplus parts and whatever was sitting around his parts drawer.

The build began with a huge ultrasonic transducer from an old ultrasonic cleaning tank [Mike] picked up on eBay for $20 £20. He didn’t pick up the standard driver board, as those don’t have a very clean output – something desperately needed if you’re setting up a standing wave. He did manage to put a simple supply together with a 555 timer, a MOSFET and a 12 V transformer connected backwards, though.

The test rig is pretty simple – just the transducer sitting on a table with an aluminum plate sitting above it on threaded rods. By adjusting the distance between the transducer to the aluminum plate, [Mike] managed to set up some standing waves he was able to suspend small Styrofoam balls in. It’s not quite precise enough to levitate small chunks of sodium and water, but it makes for an excellent science fair-type project.

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Ultrasonic anemometer for an absurdly accurate weather station

With his meteorological interests, [Carl] builds weather stations. Temperature and humidity sensors are a dime a dozen, but with his DIY ingenuity, [Carl] has built some very interesting and complicated devices. The latest of which is an ultrasonic wind sensor that uses the time of flight of ultrasonic pulses to detect how fast the wind is blowing.

[Carl]’s sensor uses four ultrasonic transducers aligned to North, South, East, and West to detect the wind speed. By measuring the time it takes an ultrasonic pulse to travel between the sensors indoors, Subtracting the in-situ measurement gives him the time of flight for each axis, and thus the wind speed.

It’s an impressive display of engineering that comes with an amazingly detailed design report. After three months of operation, [Carl] has found his ultrasonic anemometer is better than the traditional mechanical ‘egg-cup’ anemometer at measuring low wind speeds. The only real problem with the build is the fact the design makes a great bird perch, but some fine steel wire quickly corrected that problem.

Sump pump alarm sends text message as water rises


We’ve got some friends who have two sump pumps. One is a backup and sounds an alarm when it is switched on. But this only works as long as they’re home to hear it. [Felix Rusu] came up with a solution what will text him if the sump pump fails. This way he can head home, or call someone to check in on the problem if he’s away.

We saw a pretty complicated monitoring system back in January. This one uses a single ultrasonic rangefinder which we think is much simpler. It’s accurate to about 1cm and is simple to use — it’s very popular with the hobby electronics crowd which helps with price and availability of sample code. We hem and haw about the use of a Raspberry Pi board with the project. On the one hand it’s a cheap way to get the sensor on the network and provides the infrastructure you need to send any number of alerts. On the other hand, it’s a lot of power for this particular application. But we figure it can be extended to monitor other utilities in [Felix’s] home, like a sensor to alert him of a leaking water heater. And we think everyone can argue that a monitor like this is well worth the time and effort he spent to develop it.

No-touch music player


This little box not only plays tunes, but it lets you control several aspects of playback without touching a thing. [Thomas Clauser] calls it the LighTouch and we like it because it uses inaudible sound to control audible sound.

We think the pair of cylinders sticking up through the top of this project enclosure will be recognized by most readers as the business end of an ultrasonic rangefinder. This is the only control interface which [Thomas] chose to use. Although he didn’t write very extensively about the specific control scheme he implemented, the video embedded in his post shows some of the gestures that cause the Arduino inside to change its behavior. For instance, a swipe of the hand at higher level starts playback, swiping at a lower level pauses it. When adjusting the volume the box responds to how close his hand is to that sensor. With this control in place, the music side of these things is simply handled by a music shield he is using.

Hackaday Links: February 9th, 2013

Hobby electronics from 1982


[Lennart] came across one of his projects from several decades ago. It’s a twinkling star which blinks LEDs at different rates using some 7400 logic chips and RC timers.

Solder fume extractor


We’re still blowing the solder fumes away from us using our mouth, but this might inspire us to do otherwise. It’s a large PC fan mounted on a lamp goose neck. It clamps to the bench and is quite easy to position.

Ultrasonic liquid level measurement


Wanting a way to measure the liquid in these tanks without submerging a sensor, [JO3RI] turned to an Arduino and an ultrasonic rangefinder. His method even allows the level to be graphed as shown in his Instructible about the project.

Adding an ‘On’ light to save batteries


Dumpster diving yielded this electronic drum machine for [MS3FGX’s] daughter to play with. The problem is that pushing any of the buttons turns it on, it doesn’t have an auto-off, and there’s no way to know when it’s on. This is unacceptable since it runs on 5 AA batteries. His quick fix adds this green On LED. We wonder if he’ll improve upon this and add an auto-off feature?

CMOS Binary Clock


This is a portion of the guts of [Dennis’] CMOS Binary Clock project from the early 2000’s. He even built a nice case with a window for the LEDs which you can see are mounted perpendicular to the protoboard.