A photomultiplier tube is a device used to measure very low levels of light. It’s a common tool of particle physics when trying to detect just a few photons. It turns out that running a tube at room temperature will not provide the best results. To improve the accuracy and sensitivity of his equipment [David Prutchi] built this thermoelectric photomultiplier tube cooling rig.
You can’t actually see the tube in this image but it looks similar to a vacuum tube or Nixie tube. The difference being that the components inside the glass dome make up the detector instead of an amplifier or filament display. To make a physical interface with the glass [David] wrapped it in magnetic shielding and finished with a layer of aluminum foil tape. This cylinder was then snugly fit inside of an aluminum heat sync. two Peltier coolers were attached to the outside of the heat sync, using Arctic Silver thermal compound to help transmit heat. A thermocouple was also added to monitor the temperature of this first stage of cooling. All of this fits into an aluminum enclosure which was filled with expanding spray foam before having a trio of fan-cooled heat syncs attached to it.
[Shahriar] devoted the lastest episode of The Signal Path to looking at energy harvesting chips. These parts are designed to gather energy from non-traditional sources as efficiently as possible. The full episode, which is embedded after the break, is about one hour long. It starts with a bit of background about the nature of these parts, and a brief overview of the wide-range of chips available. Each is suited for a different type of energy source.
He moves on to test and explain the LTC3105 and the LTC3109. The former is shown above on a development board. [Shahriar] hooks it up to his bench equipment to compare its performance to the published specs. This culminates in a circuit that uses a solar cell as the source with a super capacitor used as storage. The latter is connected to a Peltier cooler and used to convert the potential energy of ice cubes to electrical energy which charges his iPhone for about thirty seconds. This might be useful in that Peltier generator we saw last week.
Continue reading “LTC3105 and LTC3109 energy harvesting chips”
This is the control and monitoring hardware which [Jack] built for his campfire electricity generator. He’s done an amazing job to get this far. You can see he’s pulling 1 Amp at 14.2 Volts off of the system. But there one gotcha that’s still plaguing him.
The rig uses a big metal plate as a heat sink over the campfire (which is simulated by a cooking stove for testing). On the back of that plate is an array of Peltier coolers which generate electricity based on the temperature difference from one side to the other — it’s the same theory behind candle generators. The cold side has a heat sink with water running through it. What you see above are three relays which switch between using the Peltiers in series or in parallel based on their voltage output. You can’t really make it out there but there’s a radiator and recirculating pump to the right which are used to cool the water. The gotcha we mentioned is that the radiator can’t quite keep up with the heat of the fire. To get the results seen above [Jack] is running cold water from the tap through the radiator. But maybe if this were used in the winter the water could be circulated through a big box full of snow. Just keep shoveling it in to keep up the electrical potential!
After the break we’ve embedded part four of the project video as it shows off the array of peltier coolers quite well. You will also see part five (radiator and recirculating pump testing) from which this image was taken.
Continue reading “Peltier campfire generator put out 14W (kind of)”
[Peter Wirasnik] has been casting his own aluminum heat sinks. He’s working on capturing the heat from a car’s exhaust system and turning it into electricity, kind of like the candle generator. In the photo above a standard heat sink is bolted to one side of a Peltier cooler with [Peter’s] own casting on the bottom. That casting will connect to the exhaust pipe and transfer heat to the Peltier while the other heat sink keeps the opposite side relatively cool. What results is a voltage between 600mV and 1V.
We’re not quite sure what the end product will be but the casting process is fascinating. He carves the shape of the piece he wants to cast from Styrofoam and embeds it in a box of sand. He then melts salvaged aluminum in a cast iron frying pan using what looks like a propane torch. Once molten, he pours the aluminum into the mold and it burns away the Styrofoam as it fills the void. A little cleanup and he’s got the heat conductive mounting bracket he was after.
What you see above is a generator that converts heat to electricity. [Reukpower’s] thermoelectric lamp is one of those hacks that makes you scratch your head even though you understand why it should work. The heart of the system uses a Peltier cool, just like the thermoelectric solar generator. When there is a temperature differential from one side of the Peltier to the other a small current is generated.
In this case a candle heats one side and a heat sink cools the other. The tiny voltage picked up from the Peltier’s contacts is then boosted using a joule thief. We’ve seen LEDs powered with a joule thief before, benefiting from their own low power consumption. In this case, the boost circuit is scavenged from an emergency phone charger and probably achieves higher efficiency than if he had built it himself.
[Gary Honis] has been modifying his Canon Digital Rebel XSi in order to do astrophotography. He previously removed the IR filter and replaced it with a Baader UV-IR cut filter that lets most infrared light through. However, in order to reduce noise in the pictures, he had to cool the camera down. He based the project on a peltier cooler that he salvaged from a powered beverage cooler. He made a small aluminum box and insulated it with styrofoam to hold the camera body. The peltier cooler was then attached on the side. It takes just over an hour to cool the camera down to 40 degrees, but the shots come out a lot clearer.