If you’ve ever wondered why something like a radio or a TV could command a hefty fraction of a family’s yearly income back in the day, a likely culprit is the collection of power transformers needed to run all those hungry, hungry tubes. Now fast-forward a half-century or more, and affordable, good-quality power transformers are still a problem, and often where modern retro projects go to die. Luckily, [Terry] at D-Lab Electronics has a few suggestions on budget-friendly transformers, and even shows off a nice three-tube audio amp using them.
The reason transformers were and still are expensive has a lot to do with materials. To build a transformer with enough oomph to run everything takes a lot of iron and copper, the latter of which is notoriously expensive these days. There’s also the problem of market demand; with most modern electronics favoring switched-mode power supplies, there’s just not a huge market for these big lunkers anymore, making for a supply and demand equation that’s not in the hobbyist’s favor.
Rather than shelling out $70 or more for something like a Hammond 269EX, [Terry]’s suggestion is to modify an isolation transformer, specifically the Triad N-68X. The transformer has a primary designed for either 120 or 230 volts, and a secondary that delivers 115 volts. Turn that around, though, and you can get 230 volts out from the typical North American mains supply — good enough for the plate supply on the little amp shown. That leaves the problem of powering the heaters for the tubes, which is usually the job of a second 6- or 12-volt winding on a power transformer. Luckily, the surplus market has a lot of little 6.3-volt transformers available on the cheap, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
We have to say that the amp [Terry] put these transformers to work in sounds pretty amazing — not a hint of hum. Good work, we say, but we hope he has a plan in case the vacuum tube shortage gets any worse.
Continue reading “Flipped Transformer Powers Budget-Friendly Vacuum Tube Amp”
Even though Windows and other operating systems constantly remind us to properly eject storage devices before removing them, plenty of people won’t heed those warnings until they finally corrupt a drive and cause all kinds of data loss and other catastrophes. It’s not just USB jump drives that can get corrupted, though. Any storage medium can become unusable if certain actions are being taken when the power is suddenly removed. That includes the SD cards on Raspberry Pis, too, and if your power isn’t reliable you might consider this hat to ensure they shut down properly during power losses.
The Raspberry Pi hat is centered around a series of supercapacitors which provide power for the Pi temporarily. The hat also communicates with the Pi to let it know there is a loss of power, so that the Pi can automatically shut itself down in that situation to prevent corrupting the memory card. The hat is more than just a set of backup capacitors, though. The device is capable of taking input power from a wide range of sources and filtering it for the power requirements of the Pi, especially in applications like boats and passenger vehicles where the input power might be somewhat noisy. There’s an optocoupled CAN bus interface as well for those looking to use this for automotive applications.
The entire project is also available on the project’s GitHub page for those wishing to build their own. Some sort of power backup is a good idea for any computer, though, not just Raspberry Pis. We’ve seen uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) with enough power to run an entire house including its computers, to smaller ones that’ll just keep your Internet online during a power outage.
Continue reading “Sailor Hat Adds Graceful Shutdown To Pis”
Humanity has been harvesting energy from the wind for centuries. The practice goes back at least to 8th century Persia where the first known historical records of windmills came, but likely extends even further back than that. Compared to the vast history of using wind energy directly to do things like mill grain, pump water, saw wood, or produce fabrics, the production of electricity is still relatively new. Despite that, there are some intriguing ways of using wind to produce electricity. Due to the unpredictable nature of wind from moment to moment, using it to turn a large grid-tied generator is not as straightforward as it might seem. Let’s take a look at four types of wind turbine configurations and how each deal with sudden changes in wind speeds. Continue reading “Converting Wind To Electricity Or: The Doubly-Fed Induction Generator”
[Mike Engelhardt] is a name that should be very familiar to the hardcore electronics nerd. [Mike] is the developer responsible for LTSpice, which is quite likely the most widely used spice-compatible simulator in the free software domain. When you move away from digital electronics and the comfort of software with its helpful IDEs and toolchains, and dip a wary toe into the murky grey waters of analog or power electronics, LTSpice is your best friend. And, like all best friends, it’s a bit quirky, but it always has your back. Sadly, LTSpice development seems to have stalled some years ago, but luckily for us [Mike] has been busy on the successor, QSpice, under the watchful eye of Qorvo.
It does look in its early stages, but from a useability point of view, it’s much improved over LTSpice. Performance is excellent (based on this scribe’s limited testing while mobile.) Gone (thankfully!) is the uncommon verb-noun usage paradigm — replaced with a more usual cut-n-paste flow. Visually it still kind of looks like LTspice in places, but nicer with a clear and uncluttered design that gets straight to the point. Internally, the simulation engine has improved in speed and accuracy, as well as adding native support for modern semiconductor types, such as wide bandgap materials like SiC. Noted is that this updated software has a particular emphasis on power integrity and noise analysis, which are sticky problems that have a big impact on modern high-power systems.
Continue reading “QSPICE Picks Up Where LTSpice Left Us”
Can you really save energy by carefully choosing the colors displayed on a TV screen? Under some conditions, yes. Or at least that’s the conclusion of a team at the BBC that looked at reducing the energy consumption impact of their output by using what they call Lower Carbon Graphics. In short, they’re trying to ensure that OLED displays or those with reactive backlights use less energy when displaying BBC graphics, simply by using more black.
It turns out that a lot of British households play radio stations on their TVs, and the BBC sends a static image to each screen in this mode. As part of a redesign across the organisation, the BBC removed the bright background colours from these images and replaced it with black, with a remarkable reduction in power consumption, at least on OLED and FALD screens. (On normally backlit screens, 89% of British TVs, this does nothing.)
If you look hard at their numbers, though, listening to radio on the TV is horrendously inefficient; can you imagine a radio that consumes 100 W? If the BBC really wants to help reduce media-related energy consumption, maybe they should stop broadcasting radio programming on the TV entirely.
Anyway, as we move toward a larger fraction of OLED screens, on TVs and monitors alike, it’s fun to think that darker images use up to 40% less power. Who knew that Hackaday was so environmentally friendly? Black is the new green!
Header: RIA Novosti archive/ Igor Vinogradov, CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Living in a place where the electric service isn’t particularly reliable can be frustrating, whether that’s because of a lack of infrastructure, frequent storms, or rolling blackouts. An option for those living in these situations is a backup generator, often turned on and connected by an automatic transfer switch. These are necessary safety devices too; they keep power lines from being back-fed by the generators. But there are other reasons to use transfer switches as well as [Maarten] shows us with this automatic transfer switch meant to keep his computers and Internet powered up.
The device is fairly straightforward. A dual-pole, dual-throw relay is housed inside of an electrical junction box with two electrical plugs, each of which can be connected to a different circuit or power source in [Maarten]’s house. The relay coil is energized by the primary power supply, and when that power is lost the relay automatically changes over to the other power supply, which might be something like a battery backup system. [Maarten] was able to get a higher quality product by building it himself rather than spending a comparable amount of money on a cheap off-the-shelf product as well. Continue reading “Automatic Transfer Switch Keeps Internet Online”
Collecting energy from various small mechanical processes has always been something that’s been technically possible, but never done on a large scale due to issues with cost and scalability. It’s much easier to generate electricity in bulk via traditional methods, whether that’s with fossil fuels or other proven processes like solar panels. That might be about to change, though, as a breakthrough that researchers at Georgia Tech found allows for the direct harvesting of mechanical energy at a rate much higher than previous techniques allowed.
The method takes advantage of the triboelectric effect, which is a process by which electric charge is transferred when two objects strike or slide past one another. While this effect has been known for some time, it has only been through the advancements of modern materials science that it can be put to efficient use at generating energy, creating voltages many thousands of times higher than previous materials allowed. Another barrier they needed to overcome was how to string together lots of small generators like this together. A new method that allows the cells to function semi-independently reduces the coupling capacitance, allowing larger arrays to be built.
The hope is for all of these improvements to be combined into a system which could do things like augment existing solar panels, allowing them to additionally gather energy from falling rain drops. We’d expect that the cost of this technology would need to come down considerably in order to be cost-competitive, and be able to scale from a manufacturing point-of-view before we’d see much of this in the real world, but for now at least the research seems fairly promising. But if you’re looking for something you can theoretically use right now, there are all kinds of other ways to generate energy from fairly mundane daily activities.
Continue reading “Harvesting Mechanical Energy From Falling Rain”