DIY Closed-Cell Silicone Foam

Most of us have a junk drawer, full of spare parts yanked from various places, but also likely stocked with materials we bought for a project but didn’t use completely. Half a gallon of wood glue, a pile of random, scattered resistors, or in [Ken]’s case, closed-cell silicone foam. Wanting to avoid this situation he set about trying to make his own silicone foam and had a great degree of success.

Commercial systems typically rely on a compressed gas of some sort to generate the foam. Ken also wanted to avoid this and kept his process simple by using basic (pun intended) chemistry to generate the bubbles. A mixture of vinegar and baking soda created the gas. After a healthy amount of trial and error using silicone caulk and some thinner to get the mixture correct, he was able to generate a small amount of silicone foam. While there only was a bit of foam, it was plenty for his needs. All without having a stockpile of extra foam or needing to buy any specialized equipment.

We appreciate this project for the ingenuity of taking something relatively simple (an acid-base reaction) and putting it to use in a way we’ve never seen before. While [Ken] doesn’t say directly on the project page what he uses the foam for, perhaps it or a similar type of foam could be used for building walk-along gliders.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Making Aerogel, It’s Not For The Faint-Hearted

Aerogel — that mixture of air and silica — is one of those materials that seems like a miracle. It is almost not there since the material is 99% air. [NileRed] wanted to make his own and he documented his work in a recent video you can see below.

If you decide to replicate his result, be careful with the tetramethyl orthosilicate. Here’s what he says about it:

And the best part is, that when it’s in your eyes, it gets under the surface, and the particles are way too small to remove. For this reason, you could go permanently blind.

It can also mess up your lungs, so you probably need a vent hood to really work with this. It isn’t cheap, either. The other things you need are easier to handle: methanol, distilled water, and ammonia.

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Using Additives For Better Performing Epoxy

Epoxy resins are an important material in many fields. Used on their own as an adhesive, used as a coating, or used in concert with fiber materials to make composites, their high strength and light weight makes them useful in many applications. [Tech Ingredients] decided to explore how combining basic epoxy resin with various additives can make it perform better in different roles.

The video primarily concerns itself with explaining different common additives to epoxy resin mixtures, and how they impact its performance. Adding wood flour is a great way to thicken epoxy, allowing it to form a bead when joining two surfaces. Microbeads are great to add if you’re looking to create a sandable filler. Other additive like metal powders lend the mixture resistance to degradation from UV light, while adding dendritic copper creates a final product with high thermal conductivity.

The video does a great job of not only explaining the additives and their applications, but also shares a few handy tips on best workshop practices. Things like triple-gloving and observing proper mixing order can make a big difference to your workflow and lead to better results.

We’ve seen practical applications of epoxy mixes before – with epoxy granite being a particularly popular material. Video after the break.

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Bullet-proofing Your Car With An Affordable Composite Armor

Remember those actions movies like The Fast and the Furious where cars are constantly getting smashed by fast flying bullets? What would it have taken to protect the vehicles from AK-47s? In [PrepTech]’s three-part DIY composite vehicle armor tutorial, he shows how he was able to make his own bulletproof armor from scratch. Even if you think the whole complete-collapse-of-civilization thing is a little far-fetched, you’ve got to admit that’s pretty cool.

The first part deals with actually building the composite. He uses layers of stainless steel, ceramic mosaic tiles, and fiberglass, as well as epoxy resin in order to build the composite. The resin was chosen for its high three-dimensional cross-linked density, while the fiberglass happened to be the most affordable composite fabric. Given the nature of the tiny shards produced from cutting fiberglass, extreme care must be taken so that the shards don’t end up in your clothes or face afterwards. Wearing a respirator and gloves, as well as a protective outer layer, can help.

After laminating the fabric, it hardens to the point where individual strands become stiff. The next layer – the hard ceramic – works to deform and slow down projectiles, causing it to lose around 40% of its kinetic energy upon impact. He pipes silicone between the tiles to increase the flexibility. Rather than using one large tile, which can only stand one impact, [PrepTech] uses a mosaic of tiles, allowing multiple tiles to be hit without affecting the integrity of surrounding tiles. While industrial armor uses boron or silicon carbide, ceramic is significantly lower cost.

The stainless steel is sourced from a scrap junkyard and cut to fit the dimensions of the other tiles before being epoxied to the rest of the composite. The final result is allowed to sit for a week to allow the epoxy to fully harden before being subject to ballistics tests. The plate was penetrated by a survived shots from a Glock, Škorpion vz. 61, and AK-47, but was penetrated by the Dragunov sniper rifle. Increasing the depth of the stainless steel to at least a centimeter of ballistic grade steel may have helped protect the plate from higher calibers, but [PrepTech] explained that he wasn’t able to obtain the material in his country.

Nevertheless, the lower calibers were still unable to puncture even the steel, so unless you plan on testing out the plate on high caliber weapons, it’s certainly a success for low-cost defense tools.

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Tracking Wasted Time With A Ferrofluid Clock

We know this project is supposed to be about developing a fine-looking ferrofluid clock, and not about the value of procrastination. But after watching the video below, see if you don’t think that procrastination has taken these two students further than expected.

We first ran into [Simen] and [Amund] several months ago when they launched their ferrofluid project in a fit of “There’s got to be more to life than studying.” It seemed then that building a good-looking, functional ferrofluid display would be a temporary distraction, but the problems posed proved to be far deeper and thornier than either of the electrical engineering students expected. The idea is simple: contain a magnetic fluid between two transparent panels and create pixels using an array of electromagnets to move dots of the fluid around. The implementation, however, was another matter, with the ferrofluid itself proved to be the biggest obstacle. All the formulas they tried seemed to coagulate or degrade over time and tended to stain the glass. While the degradation was never fully sorted, they managed to work around the staining by careful cleaning of the glass and using a saturated brine solution to fill the container.

Backed by 252 electromagnets and drivers on ten custom PCBs, the video below shows the (mostly) finished panel in action as a clock. We’re impressed by the smoothness of the movements of each pixel, even if there’s a bit of drooping at the bottom thanks to gravity. As for the future of the project, that’s unclear since [Simen] is headed off for a NASA internship. We’re not sure if that was despite or because of this procrastination-driven project, but we congratulate him either way and look forward to hearing more from both of them in the future.

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Robot Vs. Superbug

Working in a university or research laboratory on interesting, complicated problems in the sciences has a romanticized, glorified position in our culture. While the end results are certainly worth celebrating, often the process of new scientific discovery is underwhelming, if not outright tedious. That’s especially true in biology and chemistry, where scaling up sample sizes isn’t easy without a lot of human labor. A research group from Reading University was able to modify a 3D printer to take some of that labor out of the equation, though.

This 3D printer was used essentially as a base, with the printing head removed and replaced with a Raspberry Pi camera. The printer X/Y axes move the camera around to all of the different sample stored in the print bed, which allows the computer attached to the printer to do most of the work that a normal human would have had to do. This allows them to scale up massively and cheaply, presumably with less tedious inputs from a large number of graduate students.

While the group hopes that this method will have wide applicability for any research group handling large samples, their specific area of interest involves researching “superbugs” or microbes which have developed antibiotic resistance. Their recently-published paper states that any field which involves bacterial motility, colony growth, microtitre plates or microfluidic devices could benefit from this 3D printer modification.

Lessons In Li-Ion Safety

If you came here from an internet search because your battery just blew up and you don’t know how to put out the fire, then use a regular fire extinguisher if it’s plugged in to an outlet, or a fire extinguisher or water if it is not plugged in. Get out if there is a lot of smoke. For everyone else, keep reading.

I recently developed a product that used three 18650 cells. This battery pack had its own overvoltage, undervoltage, and overcurrent protection circuitry. On top of that my design incorporated a PTC fuse, and on top of that I had a current sensing circuit monitored by the microcontroller that controlled the board. When it comes to Li-Ion batteries, you don’t want to mess around. They pack a lot of energy, and if something goes wrong, they can experience thermal runaway, which is another word for blowing up and spreading fire and toxic gasses all over. So how do you take care of them, and what do you do when things go poorly?

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