USB-C Programmable Power Supply For Any Project

USB-C Power Delivery 3.0 (PD3.0) introduces a new Programmable Power Supply (PPS) mode, which allows a device to negotiate any supply of 3.3-21 V in 20 mV steps, and up to 5 A of current in 50 mA steps. To make use of this new standard, [Ryan Ma] create the PD Micro, an Arduino-compatible development board, and a self-contained software library to allow easy integration of PD3.0 and the older PD2.0 into projects.

The dev board is built around an ATMega32U4 microcontroller and FUSB302 USB-C PHY. The four-layer PCB is densely packed on both sides to fit in the Arduino Pro Micro Form factor. The board can deliver up to 100W (20 V at 5 A) from an appropriate power source and shows visual feedback on the PD status through a set of LEDs.

The primary goal of the project is actually in the software. [Ryan] found that existing software libraries for PD take up a lot of memory, and are difficult to integrate into small projects. Working from the PD specifications and PD PHY chip data sheet, he created a lighter weight and self-contained software library which consumes less than 8 K of flash and 1 K of RAM. This is less than half the Flash and RAM available on the ATmega32U4.

[Ryan] is running a Crowd Supply campaign (video after the break) to get some of these powerful boards out in the wild, and has released all the source code and schematics on GitHub. The PCB design files will be released during the last week of the campaign, around 25 January 2021.

USB-C and power delivery are not simple standards, but the ability to add a high-speed data interface and a programmable power supply into almost any project has real potential.

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A Miniature Power Supply For High Voltage Hacking

If you’re looking to experiment with plasma, you’re going to need a high voltage power supply. Usually that means something big, complex, and (naturally) expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. As [Jay Bowles] demonstrates in his latest Plasma Channel video, you can put together a low-cost power supply capable of producing up to 20,000 volts that fits in the palm of your hand. Though you should probably just put the thing down on a table when in use…

Finding the feedback coil with a multimeter.

The secret to the build is the flyback transformer. A household staple during the era of CRT televisions, these devices can still be readily found online or even salvaged from a broken TV. We’d recommend searching eBay for new old stock (NOS) transformers rather than risk getting blown through a wall while poking around in an old TV you found on the side of the road, but really it all depends on your experience level with this sort of thing.

In any event, once you have the flyback transformer in hand, the rest of the build is very simple. [Jay] demonstrates how you can determine the pinout for your transformer even if you can’t find a datasheet for it, and then proceeds to assemble the handful of ancillary parts necessary to drive it. Housed on a scrap of perfboard and mounted to a piece of plastic to keep stray objects away from the sparky bits underneath, this little power supply would be a reliable workhorse for anyone looking to start experimenting with high voltage. Perhaps an ionic lifter is in your future?

Readers with a photographic memory may recall that [Jay] used this same diminutive power supply in his recently completed water-based Marx generator.

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Side-Channel Attack Turns Power Supply Into Speakers

If you work in a secure facility, the chances are pretty good that any computer there is going to be stripped to the minimum complement of peripherals. After all, the fewer parts that a computer has, the fewer things that can be turned into air-gap breaching transducers, right? So no printers, no cameras, no microphones, and certainly no speakers.

Unfortunately, deleting such peripherals does you little good when [Mordechai Guri] is able to turn a computer power supply into a speaker that can exfiltrate data from air-gapped machines. In an arXiv paper (PDF link), [Guri] describes a side-channel attack of considerable deviousness and some complexity that he calls POWER-SUPPLaY. It’s a two-pronged attack with both a transmitter and receiver exploit needed to pull it off. The transmitter malware, delivered via standard methods, runs on the air-gapped machine, and controls the workload of the CPU. These changes in power usage result in vibrations in the switch-mode power supply common to most PCs, particularly in the transformers and capacitors. The resulting audio frequency signals are picked up by a malware-infected receiver on a smartphone, presumably carried by someone into the vicinity of the air-gapped machine. The data is picked up by the phone’s microphone, buffered, and exfiltrated to the attacker at a later time.

Yes, it’s complicated, requiring two exploits to install all the pieces, but under the right conditions it could be feasible. And who’s to say that the receiver malware couldn’t be replaced with the old potato chip bag exploit? Either way, we’re glad [Mordechai] and his fellow security researchers are out there finding the weak spots and challenging assumptions of what’s safe and what’s vulnerable.

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Fixing An Agilent Oscilloscope Power Supply

We should all be so lucky as [Salvaged circuitry], who scored a cheap Agilent oscilloscope from an online auction. Of course, its low price had a reason behind it, the ‘scope didn’t work. At fault was its power supply, the repair of which was documented in the video below.

These ‘scopes have relatively straightforward 12 V power supplies, extremely similar to off-the-shelf parts. The video is an interesting primer in switch-mode power supply repair, as the obvious failure of the filter capacitor and a MOSFET is traced further to the PSU controller chip. We see a new capacitor mounted proud of the board to reduce the risk of heat damage, and then some careful solder rework to save some lifted pads.

The result, a working oscilloscope. Maybe we’d have hacked in another 12 V supply, but given that this is a piece of test equipment perhaps it’s best to stay as close to the original spec as possible. As a parting shot he shows us an equivalent power supply, and promises us a side-by-side test in a future video.

These ‘scopes aren’t as popular in our circles as the cheaper Rigol range, but it’s worth remembering that they also have a budget model.

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Another PC Power Supply Project

Economy of scale is a wonderful thing, take the switch-mode power supply as an example. Before the rise of the PC, a decent multi-voltage, high current power supply would be pretty expensive. But PCs have meant cheap supplies and sometimes even free as you gut old PCs found in the dumpster. [OneMarcFifty] decided to make a pretty setup for a PC supply that includes a very nice color display with bargraphs and other niceties. You can see the power supply in action in the video below.

The display is a nice TFT driven by an Arduino Nano. The project uses ACS712 current sensor modules, which are nice Hall effect devices that produce a linear output for current and have over 2 KV of voltage isolation.

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Review: The Riden RD6006W DC Power Supply Module

You may have seen the Ruideng range of programmable power supply modules from China: small and relatively inexpensive switch-mode buck converters, with microprocessor control and a front panel featuring a large colour OLED screen. Given 30 volts or so they can supply any lower voltage with the extra bonus of current limiting. They’ve been so successful over the several years they’ve been available that they’ve even spawned their own Chinese clones, and countless hacker projects, for instance on the DPS300X and DPS500X models.

Late last year a new module came from Ruideng, the Riden-branded RD6006 combines the basic idea of the previous modules with an extremely flexible front panel with full keypad and rotary encoder, creating something like the front panel to a decent bench power supply but without the accompanying power supply. I ordered one, waited for it to clear customs, took it to my bench, and reviewed it. Continue reading “Review: The Riden RD6006W DC Power Supply Module”

Solving The Mysteries Of Grounding While Improving A Power Supply

Grounding problems and unwanted noise in electrical systems can often lead to insanity. It can seem like there’s no method to the madness when an electrical “gremlin” caused by one of these things pops its head out. When looking more closely, however, these issues have a way of becoming more obvious. In a recent video, [Fesz Electronics] shows us how to investigate some of these problems by looking at a small desktop power supply, modelling it in LTSpice, and reducing the noise on the power supply’s output.

While everything in this setup is properly grounded, including the power supply and oscilloscope, the way the grounding systems interact can contribute to the high amount of noise. This was discovered by isolating the power supply from earth ground using electrical tape (not recommended as a long-term solution) and seeing that the noise was reduced. However, the ripple increased substantially, so a more permanent fix was needed. For that, the power supply was modelled in LTSpice. This is where a key discovery was made: since all the parts of the power supply aren’t ideal, noise can be introduced from the actual real-life electrical behavior of some of the parts. In this case, it was non-ideal capacitance in the transformer.

According to the model, this power supply could be improved by adding a larger capacitor across the output leads, and also by increasing their inductance. A large capacitor was soldered in the power supply and an iron ferrule was added, which decreased the noise level from 100 mV to around 20. Still not perfect, but a much needed improvement to the simple power supply. If, on the other hand, you want to make sure you eliminate that transformer’s capacitance completely, you can always go with a transformerless power supply. That carries other risks, though.

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