After dominating the illumination market for more than a century, it’s easy to think of the glowing filament of the standard incandescent lamp as the only way people found to turn electricity into light. But plenty of fertile minds turned out alternative designs, one of which is the fascinating Nernst lamp, which we’d previously never heard of.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s likely through exposure to [Walther Nernst]’s equation for electrochemistry, or for his “New Heat Theorem” which eventually became the Third Law of Thermodynamics. Pal of [Einstein] and eventual Nobel laureate, [Nernst] was also a bit of a tinkerer, and he came up with a design for an incandescent lamp in 1897 that was twice as efficient as carbon-filament lamps. The video below, from the Edison Tech Center, details the design, which used a ceramic “glower rod” that would incandesce when current flowed through it. The glower, though, was not conductive until it was quite hot, so separate heater coils that gave the glower a start on the process were included; these were switched off by a relay built into the base of the lamp once the glower started conducting.
It’s a complicated design, but its efficiency, coupled with a better light spectrum and the fact that it didn’t need a vacuum bulb since the glower wouldn’t oxidize like a carbon or tungsten filament, gave it certain advantages that let it stake out a decent share of the early market for electric illumination. It was even the light source for one of the first facsimile machines. We find it a very clever use of what were at the time exotic materials, and wonder if this could have lead to something like vacuum tubes without the vacuum.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The Nernst Lamp”
Remember when tricking out a bike with a headlight meant clamping a big, chrome, bullet-shaped light to your handlebar and bolting a small generator to your front fork? Turning on the headlight meant flipping the generator into contact with the front wheel, powering the incandescent bulb for the few feet it took for the drag thus introduced to grind you to a halt. This ridiculous arc-lamp bicycle headlight is not that. Not by a long shot.
We’re used to seeing [Alex] doing all manner of improbable, and sometimes impossible, things on his popular KREOSAN YouTube channel. And we’re also used to watching his videos in Russian, which detracts not a whit from the entertainment value for Andglophones; subtitles are provided for the unadventurous, however. The electrodes for his arc light are graphite brushes from an electric streetcar, while the battery is an incredibly sketchy-looking collection of 98 18650 lithium-ion cells. A scary rat’s nest of coiled cable acts as a ballast to mitigate the effects of shorting when the arc is struck. The reflector is an old satellite TV dish covered in foil tape with the electrodes sitting in a makeshift holder where the feedhorn used to be. It’s bright, it’s noisy, it’s dangerous, and it smokes like a fiend, but we love it.
Mounting it to the front of the bike was just for fun, of course, and it works despite the janky nature of the construction. The neighbors into whose apartments the light was projected could not be reached for comment, but we assume they were as amused as we were.
Continue reading “DIY Arc Light Makes An Unnecessarily Powerful Bicycle Headlight”
[Jack] sent us a link to a Metropolitan Museum of Art video showing off a mechanized desk that plays music and has a ton of hidden compartments. Furniture makers of yore built hidden compartments in furniture all the time. After all, there weren’t credit cards back in the day and you had to keep important documents, cash, and everything else on hand. What strikes us is that this mates woodworking of the highest caliber with precision mechanics.
Before you get rid of that old box spring, ask yourself if you need to store dimensional goods. If you rip off the outer fabric, the network of wire inside makes a reasonable lumber rack.
And since we’re talking trash, we enjoyed seeing this water bottle wire spool minder which [Daniel] sent our way.
You know those portable DVD players you can hang from a headrest to entertain the kids on long trips? Well [John’s] broke, and like chasing the dragon, once you’re hooked on watching videos during car trips there’s no going back. Luckily he was able to throw a Raspberry Pi at the problem. He now has a portable OpenElec XBMC device controlled via a smartphone.
[Jaromir] posted some breakout board footprints that you can use. It’s not the footprints that impress us, but the idea of using them to fill up board space when spinning a new PCB. [Thanks Sarah]
LEGO Gachapon. Need we say more? Okay, truth be told we had to look it up too; Wikipedia says it’s spelled Gashapon. These are coin-operated machines that dispense toys inside of plastic capsules. This one’s made of LEGO and it’s awesome.
[Mikhail] actually built his own ballast resistors for some HeNe laser tubes. This is a bit easier than it might sound at first, as they are much lower power than the tubes used in cutters. But none-the-less an interesting, and successful, experiment.
Another week has gone by and we hope you’ve been happily hacking away in your underground lairs. If not, here’s some inspiration that didn’t quite make it to the front page this week:
[Razr] used a CFL ballast to replace the mechanical one in his fluorescent tube light fixture.
To make the drawers of his workbench more awesome [Rhys] used the faceplates from some servers.
This week saw some changes in the hobby PCB market. Looks like BatchPCB is being sold to OSH Park starting May 1st. [Thanks Brad]
[Rich Olson] shouldn’t have any trouble getting out of bed now that his alarm clock literally shreds cash if he doesn’t shut it off.
We faced the same problem as [Kremmel] when we first got a Raspberry Pi, no USB keyboard. We bought one but he simply hacked his laptop to work. [Thanks Roth]
You may remember that post about a self-propelled snowboard. Here’s a similar project that uses a screw-drive system.
And finally, if you need help reading a quadrature encoder from a microcontroller this lengthy technical post is the place to look.
[Byrel Mitchell] wrote in to share some details on this water glider which he has been working on with his classmates at the Nonlinear Autonomous Systems lab of Michigan Technological University. As its name implies, it glides through the water rather than using propulsion systems typically found on underwater ROVs. The wings on either side of the body are fixed in place, converting changes in ballast to forward momentum.
The front of the glider is at the bottom right of the image above. Look closely and you’ll see a trio of syringes pointed toward the nose. These act as the ballast tanks. A gear motor moves a pinion connected to the syringe plungers, allowing the Arduino which drives the device to fill and empty the tanks with water. When full the nose sinks and the glider moves forward, when empty it rises to the surface which also results in forward movement.
After the break you can find two videos The first shows off the functionality and demonstrates the device in a swimming pool. The second covers the details of the control systems.
Continue reading “Water Glider Prototype”
[Ben Krasnow] wanted to upgrade his shop lighting but before he made any decisions he decided to educate himself about the options that are out there. Luck for us, he shares the facts about different lighting in terms of cost and efficiency.
His old setup uses fluorescent light fixtures with T12 bulbs. These are rather bulky and inefficient bulbs. Many folks, ourselves included, would think of LED as a logical replacement. [Ben] started by looking into the various high-intensity LED modules that are available. He grabbed a catalog and started doing a couple of different calculations to compare Lumens/dollar for the upfront cost, and Lumens/Watt for the operational costs. Hands down, newer fluorescent bulbs come in cheaper on both counts and provide a wider spectrum of light.
The next decision was between purchasing the newer T5 bulbs which are rated at very high efficiencies, or to go with T8 bulbs which are better than the T12 standard but can use the same fixtures. After doing some digging he found that T5 is not much more efficient than T8, but they use an electronic ballast to boost efficiency. He ended up replacing his old magnetic ballasts with electronic ones to get high T8 efficiency at a cost that was lower than buying new T5 fixtures.
See [Ben’s] own recount of this process in the clip after the break.
Continue reading “Shop Lighting: Weighing Cost And Efficiency”