[Matt Thomas] wanted to answer the question of whether 3D printed structures can be food-safe or even medical-safe, since there is an awful lot of opinion out there but not a lot of actual science about the subject. As a mechanical engineer who dabbles in medical technical matters, he designed as series of tests using a wide range of nasty-sounding pathogens, to find once and for all what works and what does not.
One common argument sprung up from the maker movement response to COVID-19, 3D printed masks and visors. Many of us (this scribe included) printed many thousands of visor frames and ear protectors, using the armies of 3D printers we had available, then distributed them to nursing homes and doctors’ surgeries, and anywhere else that couldn’t get ‘proper’ medical-grade items.
There was much opinion about the risks associated with contamination of such 3D printed structures, due to the allegedly porous nature of the prints. [Matt] has shown with some SEM imaging, that a typical 3D print does not have any detectable porosity, and that the grooves due to the layer lines are so positively huge compared to your average bacterium, as to also be irrelevant.
Cutting to the chase, [Matt] shows that ordinary dish soap and water are totally sufficient to remove 90% or more of all of the pathogens he tested, and that using a mix of culturing swap samples as well as protein detection, that 3D printed parts could be cleaned close to medical standards, let alone those of food handling. Even those pesky biofilms could be quickly dispatched with either a quick rinse in bleach-water or a scrub with baking soda. Does this article clear this up finally? Only you can decide!
If you’ve ever dealt with orbital mechanics or sophisticated computer graphics, you’ve probably run across the math term quaternions. [Anyleaf] has a guide to the practical use of this math concept which focuses more on practicality than theory. We like it!
Quaternions are one of at least two ways to model rotations in a 3D space. Most people are familiar with the classic Euler angles which cover yaw, pitch, and roll. However, this method is prone to some ambiguities — in other words, there are multiple ways to go from one Euler state to another and all are equally valid. In addition, Euler angles are prone to gimbal lock where two of the axes are parallel and, thus, don’t have a different effect on the object’s orientation. There are several ways to combat that including the use of quaternions.
Lithium-Sulphur batteries have been on the cusp of commercial availability for a little while now, but nothing much has hit the shelves as of yet. There are still issues with lifetime due to cell degradation, and news about developments seems to be drying up a little. Not to worry, because MIT have come along with a new battery technology using some of the most available and cheap materials found on this planet of ours. The Aluminium-Sulphur battery developed has very promising characteristics for use with static and automotive applications, specifically its scalability and its incredible charge/discharge performance.
The cell is based upon electrodes constructed from aluminium metal and sulphur, with a electrolyte of molten catenated chloro-aluminate salts. With an operating temperature of around 100 degrees Celsius, you’re not going to want this in a mobile phone anytime soon, but that’s not the goal. The goal is the smoothing out of renewable energy sources, and localised electricity grid balancing. A major use case would be the mass charging of battery electric vehicles. As the number of charge points increases at any given location, so does the peak current needed from the grid. Aluminium-Sulphur batteries are touted to offer the solution to ease this, with their high peak discharge current capability enabling a much higher peak power delivery at the point of use. Continue reading “Aluminium-Sulphur Batteries For Local Grid Storage?”→
The pack is designed to be charged via solar panels, at 18 V and up to 5 A of current. It’s intended to work with a Maximum Power Point Tracking module to ensure the maximum energy is gained from the sunshine available. For storage, the pack relies on 75 individual 18650 lithium cells, arranged with 3 cells in series, each with 25 in parallel (3s25p). They’re spot welded together for strength and good conductivity. Nominally, the output voltage is on the order of 10-12 V. The included battery management system (BMS) will allow an output current up to 100 A, and the pack can be used with an AC inverter to power regular home appliances.
Overall, it’s a tidy pack that’s more than capable of keeping a few devices charged up for days at a time. If you’re building something similar yourself, though, just be sure to package it well and keep it protected. So many lithium batteries can quickly turn fiery if something goes wrong, so store and use it appropriately! Fear not, however – we’ve got a guide on how to do just that.
Hydrogen fuel is promising, and while there’s plenty of hydrogen in the air and water, the problem is extracting it. Researchers have developed a way to use aluminum nanoparticles to rip hydrogen out of water with no additional energy input. It does, however, require gallium to enable the reaction. The reaction isn’t unknown (see the video below), but the new research has some interesting twists.
Aluminum, of course, is cheap and plentiful. Gallium, not so much, but the process allows recovery and reuse of the gallium, so that makes it more cost-effective. There is a patent pending for the process and — of course — the real trick is making the aluminum nanoparticles. But if you have that, this is a simple way to extract hydrogen from water with no extra energy and at room temperature. Since the reaction of creating aluminum oxide and releasing hydrogen with gallium is pretty well-known, it appears the real research here is determining the optimal properties of the aluminum and the ratio of aluminum to gallium.
While gallium isn’t a common item around the typical hacker’s workshop — unless you count the stuff bound up in semiconductors — it isn’t that expensive and it is relatively easy to handle. Hydrogen, though, not so much — so if you do decide to use this method to produce hydrogen, be careful!
We’ve seen gallium robots and even an antenna. So if you do get some of the liquid metal, there are plenty of experiments to try.
Writing an operating system for a computing platform is one of those non-trivial tasks few people actually need to do, regardless of whether it’s for a small microcontroller or a larger general-purpose computer. Many of us spend a large amount of our time working on producing robust code for embedded systems, occasionally diving deeper into the abstraction when we’re stuck on a problem. Quite often this work is sitting on top of an RTOS, which we consider a solved problem. [Jonathan Diamond] had picked up a fair bit of knowledge of some of the low-level AVR black magic, as well as some details of how operating systems work internally, and so decided to have a crack a building a toy operating system called KittyOS, for the learning experience alone.
[Jonathan] hastens to add that this is not a practical OS, but a learning platform that needs a few more bells and whistles added to be useful. Aimed at the 8-bit AVR ATmega168 with its mere 16kB of flash and 1kB of SRAM, the diminutive chip can still perform more than well enough to host the rudimentary OS — up to four application tasks, and some basic system call support.
Already, KittyOS sports preemptive multitasking, with prioritization and support for applications written in C. Hardware support is a bit limited, with just serial I/O and a spot of GPIO, but that’s more than enough for a demonstrator. Applications can be loaded into any of the four available slots, with per-slot run state control, using the Python-based host interface. The post is a long one, with an absolute ton of the gory details we love around these parts, and we’re very glad [Jonathan] took the time to make a proper write-up as well as a demonstration video, which can be found after the break.
The device itself folded up like a laptop, and on the two surfaces had four IR LED/sensor pairs. All of these combined would localize your fist in space for playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, or would work with various other passive controller add-ons like a flight yoke for playing Top Gun. (One of the coolest bits is the flip-out IR reflectors triggered by the buttons in the yoke.)
All-in-all, the video’s take is that a number of factors doomed the U-Force to play second fiddle to the Power Glove. Battling Mattel’s marketing prowess is obvious, but other things like manufacturing problems due to bad hinges and inconsistent IR sensors delayed release and added cost. In the end, though, [Dave Capper], the U-Force’s inventor, puts it down simply to non-convincing gameplay. There were no blockbuster games that used it to its full potential.
We think there’s interesting hacker potential in a simple interface like this. Perhaps its biggest Achilles heel outside of the lack of a killer application was the fact that it required calibration. We can imagine all sorts of awesome interactions, and we’re not afraid of a little tweaking. Or maybe we would update the sensors to something more modern, like those inexpensive time-of-flight distance units.
Thanks [Karl Koscher] for bringing this documentary to our attention in the comments about the very similarly interesting laser theremin project we featured last year. It’s definitely opened our eyes to an old interaction of the past that would seem no less magical today.