If you’re reading this sentence, there’s a pretty good chance that you interact with electricity more than just as an end-user. You’re a hacker. You aren’t afraid of a few volts, and your projects may involve both DC and AC voltage. Depending on what you’re working on, you might even be dealing with several thousand volts. And it’s you who Big Clive made the video below the break for.
“Familiarity breeds contempt” as the old saying goes, and the more familiar we are with electronics, the more cavalier we may tend to get. If we allow ourselves to get too lax, we may be found working on live circuits, skimping on safety for the sake of convenience, or jokingly saying “safety third!” far too often as we tear into a hazardous situation without scoping it out first.
Who better to bring us down to earth than Big Clive. In this video, he explains how electricity has the potential to impede the beating of our hearts, the action of our lungs, and even break bones. You’ll find a candid discussion about what electric shock does to a person, how to avoid it, and how to help if someone near you suffers electric shock.
The plethora of wireless communications technologies have cut the comms wire for many applications, but these devices still require power. For home automation, this might mean a battery or mains power, but there is also an alternative that we don’t see often: Kinetic power. [Bigclivecom] bought some kinetic switches from eBay and gave it his usual reverse engineering treatment.
True to the marketing, these switches do not require external power or a battery to send a wireless signal. Instead, it harvests energy from the magnetic latching action of the switch itself. When the switch is actuated, a small current is induced in a coil as the polarity of the magnetic field through its core changes rapidly. Through a series of diodes and resisters, the energy is stored in a capacitor, which is then used to power a small transmitter chip. The antenna coil is wrapped around the switch housing.
The receiver side is powered by mains and includes a relay output for lights. It would be really nice to have a hacker-friendly module for projects. We would be curious to see the range that these devices are capable of.
The same technology is used inside the Philips Hue Tap switch, of which Adafruit did a teardown a few years ago. If you want to learn more about RF modulation, check out the crash course article we put out a while back. Of course, the RTL SDR is an indispensable and affordable tool if you want to do some experimentation.
Back in the early days of disco, filament bulbs were all the rage. Whether tungsten, halogen, or other obscure types, party lighting involved lots of watts and lots of heat. These days, the efficiency of LEDs makes everything a lot cheaper, lighter, and lower power. [Big Clive] decided to dive into a cheap moonflower-type disco light from China, replacing the insides along the way.
The light originally consisted of an 8×8 grid of LEDs, driven by shift registers for a simple chase effect. Surprisingly, the power supply and other hardware inside seemed to at least make an attempt to meet UK regulations. However, [Big Clive] had other plans, whipping up a replacement PCB packing 64 UV LEDs. The video is informative, showing how with a few simple passive components, it’s easy to drive these LEDs from mains without excessive circuitry required to step down to more usual DC voltages.