It’s no secret that we really like circuit sculptures around here, and we never tire of seeing what creative ways people come up with to celebrate the components used to make a project, rather than locking them away in an enclosure. And a circuit sculpture that incorporates sound and light in its design is always a real treat to discover.
Called “cwymriad” by its designer, [Eirik Brandal], this sound sculpture incorporates all kinds of beautiful elements. The framework is made from thick pieces of acrylic, set at interesting angles to each other and in contrasting colors. The sound-generating circuit, which uses square wave outputs from an ESP32 to provide carrier and modulation signals for a dual ring modulator, is built on a framework of tinned wires. The sounds the sculpture makes have a lovely resonance to them, like random bells and chimes that fade and mix together. There’s also a matrix of white LEDs that form a sort of digital oscilloscope that displays shifting waveforms in time with the music.
While we like the way this looks and sounds, the real bonus here is the details of construction in the video below. [Eirik]’s careful craftsmanship working with multiple materials is evident throughout; we were especially impressed by the work needed to drill holes for the LED matrix, any one of which slightly out of place would have been painfully obvious in the finished product.
Earlier this year, we featured an unusual radio receiver that took the very traditional superhetrodyne design and implemented it in an unexpected fashion without any inductors, using instead a combination of 74HC logic chips and op-amps. Its designer [acidbourbon] remarks that the circuit bears a striking resemblance to a ring modulator,so has taken it down that path by producing a 74HC based ring modulator guitar pedal.
In both circuits, a 74HC4046 phase-locked loop chip serves as an oscillator, driving a 74HC4051 analogue switch chip that performs the mixer task. The extra-op-amp filter and demodulator circuitry from the radio is omitted, and the oscillator frequency moved down to the audio range. The result can be heard in the video, and we probably agree with him that it’s not quite the same as a classic ring modulator. This lies in the type of mixer, the diodes used in a traditional circuit have a forward voltage to overcome before they start or end conducting, while the CMOS switch chip does so immediately on command.
When looking across the discrete components in your electronic armory, it is easy to overlook the humble diode. After all, one can be forgiven for the conclusion that the everyday version of this component doesn’t do much. They have none of the special skills you’d find in tunnel, Gunn, varicap, Zener, and avalanche diodes, or even LEDs, instead they are simply a one-way valve for electrical current. Connect them one way round and current flows, the other and it doesn’t. They rectify AC to DC, power supplies are full of them. Perhaps you’ve also used them to generate a stable voltage drop because they have a pretty constant voltage across them when current is flowing, but that’s it. Diodes: the shortest Hackaday article ever.
Not so fast with dismissing the diode though. There is another trick they have hiding up their sleeves, they can also act as a switch. It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, after all a quick look at many datasheets for general purpose diodes should reveal their description as switching diodes.
So how does a diode switch work? The key lies in that one-way valve we mentioned earlier. When the diode is forward biased and conducting electricity it will pass through any variations in the voltage being put into them, but when it is reverse biased and not conducting any electricity it will not. Thus a signal can be switched on by passing it through a diode in forward bias, and then turned off by putting the diode into reverse bias.