Emergency Torch Runs Without Batteries

It’s always good to have a torch on hand for emergencies. Unfortunately, sometimes these torches can be forgotten, and wind up with dead batteries when you need them most. For those cases, this build from [techrallyofficial] is just the ticket.

Instead of a battery, the torch relies on a 1.5 farad supercapacitor to store energy. The body of the torch is constructed out of PVC pipe and fittings, and packs strong neodymium magnets inside. A coil of wire wrapped is formed around an old solder spool, which, when shaken past the magnets, generates a current. This is rectified with a series of diodes and charges the supercapacitor, powering the light.

It’s a classic design that is available commercially, but it’s one easily replicated in the home shop, too. It would make a great educational project, particularly as students would be left with a useful device to take home at the end of the lesson. We’ve seen others resurrect commercial builds with upgrades, too. Video after the break.

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A Supercapacitor Might Just Light Your Way One Day

Sometimes the simplest hacks are the most useful ones, and they don’t come much simpler than the little supercapacitor LED flashlight from serial maker of cool stuff [Jeremy S. Cook]. Little more than an LED, a supercapacitor, USB plug, and couple of resistors, it makes a neat little flashlight that charges from any USB A power socket and delivers usable light for over half an hour.

It’s neat, but on its own there’s not much to detain the reader until it is revealed as a “Hello World” supercapacitor project from an article in which he delves into the possibilities of these still rather exotic components. Its point is to explore their different properties when compared to a battery, for example a linear voltage drop in contrast to the sharp drop-off of a chemical cell. In the video below the break we see him try a little boost regulator to deliver a constant voltage, with consequent severe loss of lighting time for the LED. It’s by this type of experimentation that we learn our way around a component unfamiliar to us, and the article and video are certainly worth a look if you’ve never used a supercapacitor before.

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Ammo Can Holds A 14,000 Lumen LED Flashlight

For most people, a flashlight is just something you keep in a drawer in the kitchen in case the power goes out. There’s even a good chance your “flashlight” is just an application on your phone at this point. But as we’ve seen many times before from mechanical keyboards to Power Wheels, hardcore niche communities can develop around the most innocuous pieces of hardware; and the lowly flashlight is no different.

Case in point, this 14,000 lumen LED flashlight built by [Bryson Hicks]. Designed around a 100 watt module from Stratus LED, the flashlight uses a number of 3D printed components to make itself at home in a suitably hardcore enclosure: a metal ammo can. With the addition of some modular electronics and a rather slick little control panel, his light is ready to deliver an unreasonable level of brightness anywhere he wishes.

The Stratus LED module includes its own driver, and just needs to be hooked up to a suitably beefy power source to do its thing. [Bryson] went with a 4500 mAh LiPo battery that he says gets him about a one hour runtime at full brightness. For somewhat less intense operation, he’s added a potentiometer which interfaces with the module’s driver board to control the LED output. Considering how fast the light sucks down the juice, adding a small LCD battery charge indicator to the top of the device seems like it was a prudent decision.

To prevent you from cooking anyone’s eyes at close range, the light requires you to first “arm” it by flipping the military style protected switch. Once the switch is in the on position, an illuminated push button is used to actually turn the LED module on and off. You can also snap the toggle switch back into the closed and covered position if you needed to kill the light in a hurry.

This isn’t the first preposterously bright LED flashlight we’ve seen around these parts. There’s something of an arms-race between hackers and makers to develop increasingly bright lights they can carry around, on the off chance they need to illuminate an entire neighborhood.

The Undead Remote

In the very late 1990s, something amazing was invented. White LEDs. These magical pieces of semiconductors first became commercially available in 1996, and by the early 2000s, you could buy a single 5mm white LED for less than a dollar in quantity one. A year or two later, an astonishing product showed up on infomercials airing on basic cable at 2 a.m. It was a flashlight that never needed batteries. With a small white LED, a few coils wrapped around a tube, and a magnet, you could just shake this flashlight to charge it. It’s just what you needed for when the Y2K virus killed all electronics.

Of course, no one uses these flashlights now because they suck. The early white LEDs never put out enough light, and charging a flashlight by shaking it every twenty seconds is annoying. There is another technology that desperately needs a battery-less solution, though: remote controls. They hardly use any power at all. That’s exactly what [oneohm] did for his Hackaday Prize entry. He created the Undead Remote.

The dream of a battery-less remote control has been dead since your parents got rid of that old Zenith Space Command, but here it is. This is really just a shake flashlight, a diode rectifier, a large capacitor, and some glue. Shake the remote, and you can change the channel. Is it useful? Certainly. Does it look weird and is it slightly inconvenient? Also yes. But there you go. If you want an easy way to deal with batteries in your remote control, this is a solution.

Supercapacitors In A Servo: The “Forever” Flashlight

The principle is well understood: use a motor in reverse and you get a generator. Using this bit of knowledge back in 2001 is what kick-started [Ted Yapo]’s Hackaday Prize entry. At the time, [Ted] was searching for a small flashlight for astronomy, but didn’t like dealing with dead batteries. He quickly cobbled together a makeshift solution out of some supercapacitors and a servo-as-a-generator, hacked for continuous rotation.

A testament to the supercapacitors, 17 years later it’s still going strong – leading [Ted] to document the project and also improve it. The original circuit was as simple as a servo, protection diode, some supercapacitors, and a LED with accompanying resistor; but now greater things are afoot.

A DC-DC boost converter enables constant power through the LED, regardless of the capacitor voltage. This is achieved by connecting the feedback pin of an MCP1624 switcher to an INA199 current-shunt monitor. The MCP1624 kicks in at 0.65V and stays active down to 0.35V. This is all possible due to the supercapacitors, which happily keep increasing current as voltage drops – all the way to 0.35V. Batteries are less ideal in this situation, as their internal resistance increases as voltage drops, as well as increasing with age.

When testing the new design, [Ted] found that the gears on his servos kept stripping when he was using them to charge capacitors. Though at first he attributed it to the fact that the gears were plastic, he realized that his original prototype from 2001 had been plastic as well. Eventually, he discovered the cause: modern supercapacitors are too good! The ones he’d been using in 2001 were significantly less advanced and had a much higher ESR, limiting the charging current. The only solution is to use metal gear servos

Want to read more about boost converter design? We have the pros and cons of microcontrollers for boost converters, or this neat Nixie driver for USB power.

Bluetooth Speaker In A Bag

[VanTourist] — irked by what he sees as complicated project videos — has demonstrated that you can build a high quality, multi-function Bluetooth speaker inside three hours.

Using simple hand tools — primarily a crimper, wire stripper, razor cutter and some glue — he’s packed this repurposed GoPro accessory bag with quite a bit of tech. The main components are a Bluetooth amplifier with a spiffy knob, and a pair of 15W speakers, but he’s also added a 1W LED flashlight, 1A and 2.1A charging ports, a battery charge monitor display, and pilot cover toggle switches for style points. Despite all that crammed into the bag, there’s still a bit of room left to pack in a few possessions! You can check out the build pictures here, or the video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Brightenmacher

We have all at some point have made a flashlight. It used to be a staple of childhood electronics, the screw-in bulb in a holder, and a cycle lamp battery. If you were a particularly accomplished youthful hacker you might even have fitted a proper switch, otherwise, you probably made do with a bent paperclip and a drawing pin.

So you might think that flashlights offer no challenges, after all, how many ways can you connect a bulb or an LED to a battery? [Peter Fröhlich] though has a project that should put those thoughts out of your mind. It uses a power LED driven by a TI TPS61165 boost driver, with an ATTiny44 microcontroller providing control, battery sensing, and button interface. The result is a dimmable flashlight in a 3D printed case housing both control circuitry and a single 18650 cell which he sourced from a dead laptop. Suddenly that bent paperclip doesn’t cut it anymore.

The result is a flashlight that is the equal of any commercial offering, and quite possibly better than most of them. You can build one yourself, given that he’s published the physical files necessary, but probably because this is a work in progress there are as yet no software files.

We’ve featured a lot of flashlights over the years, but it’s fair to say they usually tend towards the more powerful. Back in 2015 we published a round-up of flashlight projects if it’s a subject that captures your interest.