Electro-Optical Control Of Lasers With A Licorice Twist

You’ve got to hand it to [Les Wright]; he really knows how to dig into optical arcana and present topics in an interesting way. Case in point: an electro-optical control cell that’s powered by ouzo.

OK, the bit about the Greek aperitif may be stretching things a bit, but the Kerr Cell that [Les] builds in the video below does depend on anethole, the essential component of aniseed extract, which lends its aromatic flavor to everything from licorice to Galliano and ouzo. As [Les] explains, the Kerr effect uses a high-voltage field to rapidly switch light passing through a medium on and off. The most common medium in Kerr cells is nitrobenzene, a “distressingly powerful organic solvent” with such fun side effects as toxicity, flammability, and carcinogenicity.

Luckily, [Les] found a suitable substitute in the form of anethole — a purified sample, not just an ouzo nip. The solution went into a plain glass cuvette equipped with a pair of aluminum electrodes, which got connected to one of the high-voltage supplies we’ve seen him build before for his nitrogen laser. A pair of polarizing filters go on either end of the cuvette, and are adjusted to blank out the light passing through it. Applying 45 kilovolts across the cell instantly turns the light back on. Watch it in action in the video below.

There’s a lot of room left for experimentation on this one, including purification of the anethole for potentially better results. We’d also be curious if plain ouzo would show some degree of Kerr effect. For science, of course.

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Pimp My Scope

Most of us have heard some form of the adage, “You can buy cheaper, but you’ll never pay less.” It means that cheaper products ultimately do not stand up to the needs of their superior counterparts. Hackers love to prove this aphorism wrong by applying inexpensive upgrades to inexpensive tools to fill up a feature-rich tool bag. Take [The Thought Emporium] who has upgraded an entry-level microscope into one capable of polarized and dark-field microscopy. You can also see the video after the break.

Functionally, polarized images can reveal hidden features of things like striations in crystals or stress lines in hot glue threads. Dark-field microscopy is like replacing the normally glaring white background with a black background, and we here at Hackaday approve of that décor choice. Polarizing filters sheets are not expensive and installation can be quick, depending on your scope. Adding a dark-field filter could cost as much as a dime.

Like most mods, the greatest investment will be your time. That investment will pay back immediately by familiarizing you with your tools and their workings. In the long-run, you will have a tool with greater power.

Simple mods like the light source can be valuable, but upgrades are not limited to optical scopes, an electron microscope was brought back to life with Arduino

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Polarized Art Fixture Made From A Busted Laptop Screen

[Pedro] had a busted laptop LCD screen on his hands, but rather than throw it out, he brainstormed what he could possibly do with what would typically be considered a worthless item. He decided to make a simple art installation using the scrapped part, so he gathered a few other supplies and got to work.

The first thing he did was pull the LCD screen from the laptop, separating the front panel from the backlight panel. He drained the liquid crystal fluid from the display, and set it inside a picture frame in place of the glass. He added spacers around the edge of the frame so that the backlight could be mounted several inches behind the LCD panel.

[Pedro] then found a few polystyrene and polycarbonate plastic items from around the house, and placed them inside the frame. As you can see in the picture above, the polarizing filter built into the LCD screen makes for some pretty cool effects.

While you could debate for hours over exactly what is art, there’s no denying that his PolFrame looks cool and is a great way to save electronics from the scrap heap. We just want to know what he did with the LC fluid he drained from the screen!