Supremely-tough Glass Performs Under Pressure

There’s some nifty research from the University of Bayreuth, together with partners in China and the U.S., on creating supremely tough aluminosilicate glass that boasts an unusual structure. The image above represents regular glass structure on the left, and the paracrystalline structure on the right.

Aluminosilicate, which contains silicon, aluminum, boron and oxygen, is a type of oxide glass. Oxide glasses are a group to which borosilicate and other common glasses belong. Structurally speaking, these glasses all have a relatively disordered internal structure. They’re known for their clarity, but not especially their durability. Continue reading “Supremely-tough Glass Performs Under Pressure”

Retrotechtacular: Circuit Potting, And PCBs The Hard Way

There was a time when the very idea of building a complex circuit with the intention of destroying it would have been anathema to any electrical engineer. The work put into designing a circuit, procuring the components, and assembling it, generally with point-to-point wiring and an extravagant amount of manual labor, only to blow it up? Heresy!

But, such are the demands of national defense, and as weapons morphed into “weapon systems” after World War II, the need arose for electronics that were not only cheap enough to blow up but also tough enough to survive the often rough ride before the final bang. The short film below, simply titled Potted and Printed Circuits, details the state of the art in miniaturization and modularization of electronics, circa 1952. It was produced by the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), the main electronics R&D entity in the UK during the war which was responsible for inventions such as radar, radio navigation, and jamming technology.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Circuit Potting, And PCBs The Hard Way”

Nuke Your Own Uranium Glass Castings In The Microwave

Fair warning: if you’re going to try to mold uranium glass in a microwave kiln, you might want to not later use the oven for preparing food. Just a thought.

A little spicy…

Granted, uranium glass isn’t as dangerous as it might sound. Especially considering its creepy green glow, which almost seems to be somehow self-powered. The uranium glass used by [gigabecquerel] for this project is only about 1% U3O8, and isn’t really that radioactive. But radioactive or not, melting glass inside a microwave can be problematic, and appropriate precautions should be taken. This would include making the raw material for the project, called frit, which was accomplished by smacking a few bits of uranium glass with a hammer. We’d recommend a respirator and some good ventilation for this step.

The powdered uranium glass then goes into a graphite-coated plaster mold, which was made from a silicone mold, which in turn came from a 3D print. The charged mold then goes into a microwave kiln, which is essentially an insulating chamber that contains a silicon carbide crucible inside a standard microwave oven. Although it seems like [gigabecquerel] used a commercially available kiln, we recently saw a DIY metal-melting microwave forge that would probably do the trick.

The actual casting process is pretty simple — it’s really just ten minutes in the microwave on high until the frit gets hot enough to liquefy and flow into the mold. The results were pretty good; the glass medallion picked up the detail in the mold, but also the crack that developed in the plaster. [gigabecquerel] thinks that a mold milled from solid graphite would work better, but he doesn’t have the facilities for that. If anyone tries this out, we’d love to hear about it.

Making Neon Trees The Easy Way With No Oven Pumps Required

Neon lamps are fun and beautiful things. Hackers do love anything that glows, after all. But producing them can be difficult, requiring specialized equipment like ovens and bombarders to fill them up with plasma. However, [kcakarevska] has found a way to make neon lamps while bypassing these difficulties.

[kcakarevska] used the technique to great effect on some neon tree sculptures.
The trick is using magnesium ribbon, which is readily available form a variety of suppliers. The ribbon is cut into small inch-long fragments and pushed into a borosilicate tube of a neon sculpture near the electrode. Vacuum is then pulled on the tube down to approximately 5 microns of pressure. The tube is then closed off and the electrode is heated using an automotive-type induction heater. In due time, this vaporizes the magnesium which then creates a reactive getter coating on the inside of the tube. This picks up any oxygen, water vapor, or other contaminants that may have been left inside the tube without the need for an oven vacuum pumping stage. The tube is then ready to be filled with neon. After about 24 to 48 hours of running, the getter coating will have picked up the contaminants and the tube will glow well.

It’s a useful technique, particularly for complex neon sculptures that won’t readily fit in an oven for pumpdown. If the glasswork is still too daunting, though, you can always use other techniques to get a similar look. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Making Neon Trees The Easy Way With No Oven Pumps Required”

There’s Cash In Them Old Solar Panels

The first solar panels may have rolled out of Bell Labs in the 1950s, with major press around their inconsistent and patchy adoption in the decades that followed, but despite the fanfare they were not been able to compete on a price per kilowatt compared to other methods of power generation until much more recently. Since then the amount of solar farms has increased exponentially, and while generating energy from the sun is much cleaner than most other methods of energy production and contributes no greenhouse gasses in the process there are some concerns with disposal of solar panels as they reach the end of their 30-year lifespan. Some companies are planning on making money on recycling these old modules rather than letting them be landfilled. Continue reading “There’s Cash In Them Old Solar Panels”

Drilling Glass With Femtosecond Lasers Just Got Even Better

Glass! It’s a finicky thing. Strong as hell, yet chip it and glance at it the wrong way, and you’re left with a bunch of sharp rubbish. It’s at once adored for its clarity and smoothness, and decried for how temperamental it can be in the case of shock, whether mechanical, thermal, or otherwise.

If you’ve ever tried to drill glass, you’ll know it’s a tough errand. To do so without cracking it is about as likely as winning the lottery on Mars. Even lasers aren’t great at it. However, a research team from France has developed a new technique that uses femtosecond lasers to drill microscopic holes in glass with a minimum of tapering and no cracking! Brilliant, no?
Continue reading “Drilling Glass With Femtosecond Lasers Just Got Even Better”

This Scratch-Built X-Ray Tube Really Shines

On no planet is making your own X-ray tube a good idea. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about it, because it’s pretty darn cool.

And when we say making an X-ray tube, we mean it — [atominik] worked from raw materials, like glass test tubes, tungsten welding electrodes, and bits of scrap metal, to make this dangerously delightful tube. His tool setup was minimalistic as well– where we might expect to see a glassblower’s lathe like the ones used by [Dalibor Farny] to make his custom Nixie tubes, [atominik] only had a small oxy-propane hand torch to work with. The only other specialized tools, besides the obvious vacuum pump, was a homebrew spot welder, which was used to bond metal components to the tungsten wires used for the glass-to-metal seals.

Although [atominik] made several versions, the best tube is a hot cathode design, with a thoriated tungsten cathode inside a copper focusing cup. Across from that is the anode, a copper slug target with an angled face to direct the X-rays perpendicular to the long axis of the tube. He also included a titanium electrode to create a getter to scavenge oxygen and nitrogen and improve the vacuum inside the tube. All in all, it looks pretty similar to a commercial dental X-ray tube.

The demonstration in the video below is both convincing and terrifying. He doesn’t mention the voltage he’s using across the anode, but from the cracking sound we’d guess somewhere around 25- to 30 kilovolts. The tube really gets his Geiger counter clicking.

Here’s hoping [atominik] is taking the proper precautions during these experiments, and that you do too if you decide to replicate this. You’ll also probably want to check out our look at the engineering inside commercial medical X-ray tubes.

Continue reading “This Scratch-Built X-Ray Tube Really Shines”