Kelvin Probes Review Shows How 4-Wire Resistance Measurement Works

You might think the probes in the picture are just funny looking alligator clips. But if you watch [tomtektest’s] recent video, you’ll learn they are really Kelvin probes. Kelvin probes are a special type of probe for making accurate resistance measurements using four wires and, in fact, the probe’s jaws are electrically isolated from each other.

We liked [Tom’s] advice from his old instructor: you aren’t really ever measuring a resistance. You are measuring a voltage and a current. With a four-wire measurement, one pair of wires carries current to the device under test and the other pair of wires measure the voltage drop.

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Pour Yourself A Glass Of 100,000 Volts

You’d be hard pressed to find a hacker or maker who doesn’t have a soft spot for the tantalizing buzz and snap of a high voltage spark gap, but it remains the sort of project that most of us don’t take on personally. There’s a perceived complexity in building a device capable of shooting a proper spark through several inches of open air, with connotations of exotic components and massive hand-wound coils. Plus, nobody wants to inadvertently singe off their eyebrows.

While the latest video from [Jay Bowles] might not assuage anyone’s fear of performing impromptu electrolysis, it does at least prove that you don’t need to have a laboratory full of gear to produce six figure voltages. In fact, you don’t even need much in the way of electronics: the key components of this DIY Marx generator are made with little more than water and some household items.

This is made possible by the fact that the conductivity of water can be changed depending on what’s been dissolved into it. Straight tap water is a poor enough conductor that tubes of it can be used in place of high voltage resistors, while the addition of some salt and a plastic insulating layer makes for a rudimentary capacitor. You’ll still need wires to connect everything together and some bits of metal to serve as spark gaps, but nothing you won’t find lurking in the parts bin.

Of course, water and a smattering of nails won’t spontaneously generate electricity. You need to give it a bit of a kick start, and for that [Jay] is using a 15,000 volt DC flyback power supply that looks like it may have been built with components salvaged from an old CRT television. While the flyback transformer alone could certainly generate some impressive sparks, this largely liquid Marx generator multiplies the input voltage to produce a serious light show.

We’re always glad to see a new video from the perennially jovial [Jay] come our way. While his projects might not always be practical in the strictest sense, they never fail to inspire a lively discussion about the fascinating applications of high voltage.

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Test Unknown Fuses Without Destroying Them

There’s a problem with fuses. On the face of it, testing would seem to be a one-shot deal — exceed the rated current and see if it blows. But once you know the answer, the device is useless. If only there were a way to test fuses without damaging them.

As it turns out there is, and [Kerry Wong] weaves quite a tale about his attempts to non-destructively test fuses. The fuses in question are nothing fancy — just the standard glass tube type, from a cheap assortment kit off Amazon. Therein lies the problem: can such cheap devices be trusted? Finding out requires diving much deeper into the technology of fuses than many people will have done, including understanding how the thermal and electrical characteristics of the fuse element behave.

[Kerry]’s test setup is simple, consisting of a constant current power supply and a voltmeter across the fuse to measure the voltage drop caused by the resistance of the fuse element. As he ramps up the current, the voltage drop increases linearly due to the increase in resistance of the alloy with increasing temperature. That only lasts up to a point, where the fuse resistance starts increasing exponentially. Pushing much past the point where the resistance has doubled would blow the fuse, so that’s the endpoint of his tests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his no-name fuses all went significantly beyond their rated current, proving that you get what you pay for. See the video below for the tests and an analysis of the results.

It’s handy to know there’s a way to check fuses without popping them, and we’ll file this one away for future reference. Don’t forget that you should always check the fuse when troubleshooting, because you never know what the last person did to it.

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Salty? Tip Canister To Rage Quit Games

Do you long for a more pronounced way to rage quit video games? Smashing buttons comes naturally, of course, but this hurts the controller or keyboard. You can quit your longing, because [Insert Controller Here] has an elegant solution that’s worth its salt.

The Salty Rage Quit Controller is simple. The cup is filled with distilled water. When you pour salt in it, the two bolt terminals tell the Arduino Micro that the resistance in the water has decreased. The Micro sends whatever keystrokes you want, so you could call out your deadbeat medic before quitting, or just plain leave. [Insert Controller Here] has example code on his site to get you started. Click calmly past the break to watch the demo and build videos, or we’ll have to ban you for aggro.

With the right tools, you can turn anything into a game controller. Check out this car controller that uses Python and CAN bus sniffing.

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Circuit VR: Resistance Measurement With Four Wires

If you want to measure resistance and you know Ohm’s law, it seems like you have an easy answer, right? Feed a known current through the thing you want to measure and read the voltage required. A little math, and that’s it. Or is it? If you are measuring reasonably large resistance and you don’t mind small inaccuracies, sure. But for tiny measurements or highly accurate measurements, you’d be better off using the four-wire method. What’s more is, understanding why you want to use the four-wire method is a great example of using an understanding of electronics to find solutions to problems.
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Your Own Milliohm Meter

We like to pretend that wires are perfect all the time. For the most part that’s acceptable, but sometimes you really do care about those tiny fractional ohm quantities. Unfortunately though, most meters won’t read very low values. There are tricks you can use to achieve that aim, such as measuring low currents through a device with a known voltage applied. It is handier though to have an instrument to make the reading directly, and [Kasyan TV] did just that with a surprisingly low part count.

The whole thing is built from an LM317, a resistor, and a voltmeter module, that’s it. [Kasyan] mentions the meter’s accuracy means the lower digits are not meaningful, but it looks to us as though there are other sources of error — for example, there’s no way to zero out the probe’s resistance except during the initial calibration. Continue reading “Your Own Milliohm Meter”

Always Have A Square To Spare

Some aspects of humanity affect all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it’s getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, getting a flat tire on the way to work, or upgrading a Linux package which somehow breaks the entire installation, some experiences are truly universal. Among these is pulling a few squares of toilet paper off the roll, only to have the entire roll unravel with an overly aggressive pull. It’s possible to employ a little technology so that none of us have to go through this hassle again, though.

[William Holden] and [Eric Strebel] have decided to tackle this problem with an innovative bearing of sorts that replaces a typical toilet paper holder. Embedded in the mechanism is a set of magnetic discs which provide a higher resistance than a normal roll holder would. Slowly pulling out squares of paper is possible, but like a non-Newtonian fluid becomes solid when a higher force is applied, the magnets will provide enough resistance when a higher speed tug is performed on the toilet paper. This causes the paper to tear rather than unspool the whole roll, and also allows the user to operate the toilet paper one-handed.

This is a great solution to a problem we’ve all faced but probably forgot about a minute after we experienced it. And, it also holds your cell phone to keep it from falling in the toilet! If you’d like to check out their Kickstarter, they are trying to raise money to bring the product to market. And, if you want to upgrade your toilet paper dispenser even further, there’s also an IoT device for it as well, of course.

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