Electrical Steel: The Material At The Heart Of The Grid

When thoughts turn to the modernization and decarbonization of our transportation infrastructure, one imagines it to be dominated by exotic materials. EV motors and wind turbine generators need magnets made with rare earth metals (which turn out to be not all that rare), batteries for cars and grid storage need lithium and cobalt, and of course an abundance of extremely pure silicon is needed to provide the computational power that makes everything work. Throw in healthy pinches of graphene, carbon fiber composites and ceramics, and minerals like molybdenum, and the recipe starts looking pretty exotic.

As necessary as they are, all these exotic materials are worthless without a foundation of more familiar materials, ones that humans have been extracting and exploiting for eons. Mine all the neodymium you want, but without materials like copper for motor and generator windings, your EV is going nowhere and wind turbines are just big lawn ornaments. But just as important is iron, specifically as the alloy steel, which not only forms the structural elements of nearly everything mechanical but also appears in the stators and rotors of motors and generators, as well as the cores of the giant transformers that the electrical grid is built from.

Not just any steel will do for electrical use, though; special formulations, collectively known as electrical steel, are needed to build these electromagnetic devices. Electrical steel is simple in concept but complex in detail, and has become absolutely vital to the functioning of modern society. So it pays to take a look at what electrical steel is and how it works, and why we’re going nowhere without it.

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Make Your Bookshelf Clickable

We’ll confess that we have a fondness for real books and plenty of them. So does [James], and he decided he needed a way to take a picture of his bookshelves and make each book clickable to find more information. This is one of those things that sounds fairly simple until you decide to do it. You can try an example of the results and then go back and read about the journey it took to get there.

There are several subtasks involved. First, you want to identify each book’s envelope. It wouldn’t do to click on the Joy of Cooking and get information about Remembrance of Things Past.

The next challenge is reading the title of the book. This can be tricky. Fonts differ. The book could be upside down. Some titles go cross the spine, but most go vertically. The remainder of the task is fairly easy. If you know the region and the title, you can easily find a link (for Google Books, in this case) and build an SVG overlay that maps the areas for each book to the right link.

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Lift Those Pins With Ease

Reworking is one of the regular tasks of anyone who is involved in an electronic design process, because try as we might, it’s rare to get a design perfectly right the first time. Some reworking tasks are more difficult than others though, and we have to admit that lifting an IC pin doesn’t always result in success. But with this video from [Mr. SolderFix] there’s hope for conquering the technique, as he takes us through the best pin-raising technique on a variety of packages.

The trick it seems is to lift the pin first without attempting to disengage it from the molten solder, then returning to it with some copper braid to remove the solder and leave it raised. Once the secret is revealed it’s so easy, something a Hackaday scribe should be able to do. He does sound a note of caution though, as some packages are prone to disintegrating when stressed. A broken SOT-23 is not something anyone likes to see through their magnifier.

His channel is full of such no-nonsense soldering advice, and should be a fascinating browse for many readers. Meanwhile we’ve covered quite a bit of rework technique ourselves, such as last year when we looked at BGA work.

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