LEGO Rig Makes Pretty Water Vortexes

LEGO and its Technic line is a great way to learn about all kinds of mechanical things, but it’s also just a whole lot of fun to play with. We suspect the latter reason is what got [Brick Technology] to pursue creating a trippy water vortex with the building toy.

The first design uses a transparent plastic sphere as a water vessel. Inside the sphere is placed a small turbine, turned from the outside via a magnetic coupling. This means the sphere can remain intact, with no holes required, nor complicated seals which can leak. It works well, and produces a vortex when the turbine is spun by a regular LEGO motor. A second attempt elects to rotate the entire sphere itself. Small LEGO wheels are then used to hold the sphere in place on the rapidly spinning turntable. The results are impressive, creating a large and relatively well-formed vortex.

Naturally, though, the video saves the best for last. The big transparent sphere is installed in a rig that surrounds it completely. The sphere itself is spun up thanks to wheels installed on two different axes. This allows the sphere to be spun in various directions under command from a PlayStation controller, creating more complicated vortexes and flow patterns. A set of swiveling casters are provided to hold the sphere in place as it rotates in various directions, and are damped with springs and rubber bands to stop the rig shaking itself apart.

Is there much purpose to this? Well, not on the surface level, no. However, it would certainly make one heck of a rig for shaking up cocktails. Or, if for some reason you need a noisy yet attractive centrifugal separator, maybe this could do the trick. Continue reading “LEGO Rig Makes Pretty Water Vortexes”

A complex piece of laboratory glassware with liquid metal inside

A Liquid Metal Fountain That Works At Room Temperature

A fountain is a great way of adding a little flair to an otherwise boring pond. All you need is a pump, a filter and some pipes, along with a nozzle to scatter the pressurized water in some aesthetically pleasing way. Fountains are generally quite safe: if any of the parts malfunction, the worst thing that can happen is some minor flooding.

How different this is for [Advanced Tinkering]’s recent project, the NaK Fountain. If this one were to spring a leak, it’s quite likely to take out its surroundings in a huge fireball. That’s because the fluid inside is an alloy of sodium and potassium in about a 1:3 ratio, known as NaK (pronounced like “knack”), which is a liquid at room temperature. Unfortunately, it’s also highly reactive: NaK oxidizes quickly when exposed to air and can even catch fire spontaneously. Contact with water will result in a fiery explosion that scatters corrosive liquids everywhere. Continue reading “A Liquid Metal Fountain That Works At Room Temperature”

Small Engine Failure Leads To Impromptu Teardown

When the 6.5 HP (212 cc) Harbor Freight Predator engine in his kid’s go-kart gave up the ghost after some particularly hard driving, [HowToLou] figured it would be a good time to poke around inside the low-cost powerplant for our viewing pleasure. As a bonus, he even got it up and running again.

The shattered rod, and its replacement.

For an engine that has a retail price of just $160 USD, we’ve got to admit, the inside of the Predator doesn’t look too shabby. Admittedly, [HowToLou] determined that the cause of the failure was a blown connecting rod, but he also mentions that somebody had previously removed the engine’s governor, allowing it to rev up far beyond the nominal maximum of 3,600 RPM. No word on who snuck in there and yanked the governor out, but we’re betting it wasn’t the 7-year old driver…

Replacing the connecting rod meant taking most of the engine apart, but for our education, [HowToLou]  decided to take it a bit further and remove everything from the engine. After stripping it down to the block, he re-installs each piece while explaining its function. If you’ve ever wanted to see what makes one of these little engines tick, or perhaps you’ve got a Predator 212 cc in need of a repair or rebuild, the presentation is a fantastic resource.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the go-kart in question — back in June, we covered the unique electric reverse that [HowToLou] came up with for it.

Powering A Cellphone With Gasoline

Batteries are a really useful way to store energy, but their energy density in regards to both weight and volume is disappointing. In these regards, they really can’t compete with fossil fuels. Thus, [bryan.lowder] decided to see if he could charge a phone with fossil fuels as safely and inoffensively as possible.

Obviously, with many national grids relying on fossil fuels for a large part of their generation, most of us are already charging our phones with fossil fuels to some degree. However, the aim here was to do so more directly, without incurring transmission losses from the long runs through the power grid. Continue reading “Powering A Cellphone With Gasoline”

Hackaday Prize 2022: A Spring-Driven Digital Movie Camera

These days, most of us are carrying capable smartphones with high-quality cameras. It makes shooting video so easy as to take all the fun out of it. [AIRPOCKET] decided to bring that back, by converting an old spring-driven 8mm film camera to shoot digital video.

The camera in question is a magazine-fed Bell & Howell Model 172 from the 1950s. In its original spring-driven form, it could shoot for approximately 35 seconds at a (jerky) frame rate 16 fps.

In this build, though, the film is replaced with a digital imaging system designed to fit in the same space as the original magazine. A Raspberry Pi Zero 2 was pressed into service, along with a rechargeable battery and Pi camera module. The camera is timed to synchronise with the shutter mechanism via a photosensor.

Since it uses the original optics and shutter speed, the resulting video is actually very reminiscent of the Super 8 cameras of the past. It’s an impressive way to get a retro film effect straight into a digital output format. The alternative is to just shoot on film and scan it afterwards, of course! Video after the break.

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize 2022: A Spring-Driven Digital Movie Camera”

The Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant, moored at Pevek, Russia. It provides power and heat to the isolated community.

Cogeneration And District Heating For Comfortable Homes And Happy Factories

Most of modern society’s energy usage is spent on heating in some form, whether it is to heat water, raise the temperature in a room, or for use in industrial processes. This makes it an excellent target for improvements in efficiency and resilience, as well as in the effort to decarbonize the world’s energy production. Here district heating and similar solutions are likely to play a major role in the near future.

Over the past decades, a number of nations have either already built out extensive district heating grids, or are in the process of doing so. The main advantage of these heating grids is that they not only allow for more efficient, centralized generating of heat, but also allow for e.g. industrial waste heat to be used productively rather than wasted, even if most of the heat will come from either dedicated or cogeneration thermal plants.

Recently, district heating has received a big push in e.g. China in the form of nuclear cogeneration, while the potential of using thermal storage to buffer heat for later use along with the concept of tying data centers into heating grids are also being explored. Although district heating is hardly new, it may help to ease humanity into a low-carbon future, without losing a bit of comfort.

Continue reading “Cogeneration And District Heating For Comfortable Homes And Happy Factories”

It’s A Plane… It’s A Train… Um… It’s Both?

What kind of electric vehicle travels at 620 miles per hour (998 km/h)? According to Canadian and French company TransPot, their FluxJet will do it and they want to use it to virtually shrink the Great White North. An electric jet? Not exactly. The FluxJet is a magnetic levitation (maglev) train riding in a vacuum tube with contactless power delivery.

The company claims it can carry 54 passengers or 10 tons of cargo. You can see two videos about the concept below. Judging by the second video, the device might be controlled by a serial port — well, probably not, but we were still amused to see the directory of tty devices on the screen.

Pipe dream (no pun intended)? Maybe. But they did get $550 million in funding and a plan to build a line between Calgary and Edmonton that will take 45 minutes to traverse. Reports are that they did demonstrate a 1-ton 18-foot-long prototype, although we couldn’t find any actual video footage of that — just hints of it in the marketing videos.

Of course, this isn’t the first such system proposed as a “hyperloop” but they do seem to be building momentum financially. We aren’t clear what they are talking about with the “veillance flux,” but we also know that since they are a French-speaking organization, it may just be another way to say “sensors” because — we think —  veillance is a French word that means watching. We also aren’t sure how a train in a vacuum has much in common with an airplane. Maglev isn’t new, either.

Continue reading “It’s A Plane… It’s A Train… Um… It’s Both?”