Hackaday Links: July 21, 2019

Ordering a PCB used to be a [Henry Ford]-esque experience: pick any color you like, as long as it’s green. We’ve come a long way in the “express yourself” space with PCBs, with slightly less than all the colors of the rainbow available, and some pretty nice silkscreening options to boot. But wouldn’t it be nice to get full-color graphics on a PCB? Australian company Little Bird thinks so, and they came up with a method to print graphics on a board. The results from what looks like a modified inkjet printer are pretty stunning, if somewhat limited in application. But I bet you could really make a splash with these in our Beautiful Hardware contest.

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing has come and gone with at least as much fanfare as it deserves. Part of that celebration was Project Egress, creation of a replica of the Columbia crew hatch from parts made by 44 hackers and makers. Those parts were assembled on Thursday by [Adam Savage] at the National Air and Space Museum in an event that was streamed live. A lot of friends of Hackaday were in on the build and were on hand, like [Fran Blanche], [John Saunders], [Sophy Wong], and [Estefannie]. The Smithsonian says they’ll have a recording of the stream available soon, so watch this space if you’re interested in a replay.

From the “Don’t try this at home” department, organic chemist [Derek Lowe] has compiled a “Things I won’t work with” list. It’s real horror show stuff that regales the uninitiated with all sorts of chemical nightmares. Read up on chlorine trifluoride, an oxidizer of such strength that it’s hypergolic with anything that even approaches being fuel. Wet sand? Yep, bursts into flames on contact. Good reading.

Continuing the safety theme, machinist [Joe Pieczynski] offers this lathe tip designed to keep you in possession of a full set of fingers. He points out that the common practice of using a strip of emery cloth to polish a piece of round stock on either a wood or metal lathe can lead to disaster if the ends of the strip are brought into close proximity, whereupon it can catch and act like a strap wrench. Your fingers don’t stand a chance against such forces, so watch out. [Joe] doesn’t share any gory pictures of what can happen, but they’re out there. Only the brave need to Google “degloving injury.” NSFL – you’ve been warned.

On a happier note, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to print water-clear parts on a standard 3D printer? Sure it would, but the “clear” filaments and resins all seem to result in parts that are, at best, clearish. Industrial designer [Eric Strebel] has developed a method of post-processing clear SLA prints. It’s a little wet sanding followed by a top coat of a super stinky two-part urethane clearcoat. Fussy work, but the results are impressive, and it’s a good technique to file away for someday.

Graphene Is So Yesterday — Meet Borophene

It wasn’t long ago that graphene seemed to take the science and engineering communities by storm. You can make bits of it with a pencil and some sticky tape, yet it had all sorts of wonderful properties. The key, of course, is that it is a single layer of atoms. Now scientists have done the same trick with boron to form borophene, and it looks to be even more exciting than graphene. You can read a pretty dense paper about the material if you want to dig deeper.

The new material is stronger and more flexible than graphene. It appears too that it could boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Computer simulations showed that borophene was possible back in 1990, but it wasn’t until 2015 that anyone was able to make any. The material is a good conductor of electricity and heat. It also exhibits superconductivity. Another exciting prospect is that it can be created in different arrangements, each with a unique set of properties. So you may be able to build borophene to be, for example, especially conductive or particularly strong.

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Anodizing Aluminium In The Land Of The Queen

Aluminium is a useful material, both for its light weight and resistance to corrosion. This resistance can be improved further with various treatments, one of the more popular being anodizing. This is the process behind the fancy colored metal bling on your cousin’s BMX bike. It’s possible to perform this in the home lab, when taking the appropriate precautions.

[The Recreational Machinist] has been experimenting with anodizing on and off for the last few years, and decided to share their process – as a “what did”, rather than a “how to”. The video is from the perspective of performing this task in the United Kingdom, as the availability of chemicals varies around the world and can affect the viability of various processes involved.

All the relevant techniques are covered, from cathode design to the hardware chosen to give the best results. There’s even discussion of the use of magnetic stirrers to prevent bubble marks, as well as proper cleaning processes to avoid unsightly blemishes from fingerprints or other contaminants. Perhaps the most useful tip provided is that using specific anodizing dyes does give the best results, though it is possible to get by with various types of clothing dye. As always, your mileage may vary.

There’s a big difference between reading theory and seeing the specifics of an actual working process, and [The Recreational Machinist] does a great job of showing off the realities of achieving this at home. We’ve seen it done before, with different chemicals too. Video after the break. Continue reading “Anodizing Aluminium In The Land Of The Queen”

Extracting Bismuth From Pepto Bismol

Bismuth is a very odd metal that you see in cosmetic pigments and as a replacement for lead, since it is less toxic. You will also see it — or an alloy — in fire sprinklers since it melts readily. However, the most common place you might encounter bismuth is Pepto Bismol — the ubiquitous pink liquid you use when your stomach is upset. [NileRed] tried extracting the bismuth from Pepto Bismol some time ago, but didn’t get good results. He decided that even though the process would not be cost-effective he wanted to try again, and you can see the crystals produced in the video below.

It turns out that you don’t need the pink liquid brand name. [Red Nile] started with ten boxes of generic chewable tablets — that’s 480 pills. A little bit of dilute hydrochloric acid eats the pills apart and generates a few reactions that he explains in the video.

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Common Chemicals Combine To Make Metallic Sodium

There’s no debating that metallic sodium is exciting stuff, but getting your hands on some can be problematic, what with the need to ship it in a mineral oil bath to keep it from exploding. So why not make your own? No problem, just pass a few thousand amps of current through an 800° pot of molten table salt. Easy as pie.

Thankfully, there’s now a more approachable method courtesy of this clever chemical hack that makes metallic sodium in quantity without using electrolysis. [NurdRage], aka [Dr. N. Butyl Lithium], has developed a process to extract metallic sodium from sodium hydroxide. In fact, everything [NurdRage] used to make the large slugs of sodium is easily and cheaply available – NaOH from drain cleaner, magnesium from fire starters, and mineral oil to keep things calm. The reaction requires an unusual catalyst – menthol – which is easily obtained online. He also gave the reaction a jump-start with a small amount of sodium metal, which can be produced by the lower-yielding but far more spectacular thermochemical dioxane method; lithium harvested from old batteries can be substituted in a pinch. The reaction will require a great deal of care to make sure nothing goes wrong, but in the end, sizable chunks of the soft, gray metal are produced at phenomenal yields of 90% and more. The video below walks you through the whole process.

It looks as though [NurdRage]’s method can be scaled up substantially or done in repeated small batches to create even more sodium. But what do you do when you make too much sodium metal and need to dispose of it? Not a problem.

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Make Your Own Phosphorescent Material

Phosphors are key to a whole swathe of display and lighting technologies. Cathode ray tubes, vacuum fluorsecent displays, and even some white LEDs all use phosphors to produce light. [Hydrogen Time] decided to make a green phosphorescent material, and has shared the process on Youtube, embedded below.

The aim is to produce zinc sulfide crystals doped with copper impurities. This creates a phosphor with a familiar green glow. [Hydrogen Time] starts by noting that it’s important to make sure all chemicals used are of good quality, as even slight impurities can spoil the final product.

Zinc sulfide is made into an aqueous solution, before a highly diluted copper sulfate solution is added, along with ammonium chloride to act as a flux. The mixture is stirred, before being heated in a tube flushed with argon. After firing, the phosphor is washed with water and allowed to cool.

The final product is demonstrated to glow a vibrant green under UV light, showing the process to be successful. [Hydrogen Time] intends to use the homebrew phosphor in future work to produce a display. It recalls us of [Jeri Ellsworth], producing her own EL wire at home. Video after the break.

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AI Patent Trolls Now On The Job For Drug Companies

Love it or loathe it, the pharmaceutical industry is really good at protecting its intellectual property. Drug companies pour billions into discovering new drugs and bringing them to market, and they do whatever it takes to make sure they have exclusive positions to profit from their innovations for as long a possible. Patent applications are meticulously crafted to keep the competition at bay for as long as possible, which is why it often takes ages for cheaper generic versions of blockbuster medications to hit the market, to the chagrin of patients, insurers, and policymakers alike.

Drug companies now appear poised to benefit from the artificial intelligence revolution to solidify their patent positions even further. New computational methods are being employed to not only plan the synthesis of new drugs, but to also find alternative pathways to the same end product that might present a patent loophole. AI just might change the face of drug development in the near future, and not necessarily for the better.

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