Is That A Mars Habitat? A Submarine? A Spaceship? Nope: It’s Home.

[Jan Körbes], an architect living with his daughter in Berlin, specializes in recycling materials. Inspired by discarded grain silos he saw across the Netherlands, he converted one into a micro-home that you would almost expect to see on the surface of mars. The guided tour in the video below give a pretty good feel for the space station feel of the abode.

A lot of the silo house’s design was inspired by [Körbes’] childhood of growing up on boats. It’s exceptionally functional and nearly every nook and cranny of the home can be altered, repurposed, and changed back. For instance: the two pantries on the main floor used to the toilet and shower, but since the silo home is currently set up at ZK/U — Center for Arts and Urbanistics in Berlin — they make use of the facilities there instead.

True to his specialization of creative recycling , a lot of the materials for the house were either donated, or bought at a steep discount due to various reasons. For instance, the windows were a small, unpopular size for most houses but work well here. This led to an evolving design of the house as it was being built, but everything [Körbes] and his daughter need is present inside of fourteen square metres on three floors.

Under the floor on the main level is a bathtub with infrared heating — the cover doubling as the dining table with feet dangling into the tub underneath. The kitchen has a small oven, an old camp stove, and fridge — enough for two people — and the sink uses a foot-activated button so the [Körbes’] use only as much water as they need. A nearby small wood stove with an extendable wood storage basket heats the space.

The house’s electrical (including a solar battery) and water systems are tucked into the basement beside the books, keeping the heavier objects low in such a tall and narrow dwelling. Larger rainwater collection tanks (a hack we’re quite fond of) surrounding the silo house also add ballast in case of storm.

With a two metre ceiling height on the main floor and nearly as much in the bunking quarters upstairs — accessed by a climbing wall, [Körbes] says the space feels much larger than you would expect. Large enough, at least, to host a standing record of a 38-person party. It’s fun to see the ingenuity that goes into tiny living space design. If you missed it, check out these CNC plywood designs for building homes.

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Solar Power In A Can!

When spending time camping, people often bring lanterns, flashlights, and the like — you might even bring along a solar charger. Instructables user [bennelson] is combining all your electrical powered needs by cramming solar power into a can.

Already designed to resist the elements, [bennelson] is using a 50cal. ammo can for a portable enclosure. Inside, he’s siliconed a 15AH, 12V lead-acid battery in the centre to maintain balance and to leave room for the wiring and storage. One cardboard mockup later, he laser-cut the top panel from 1/8″ plywood and secured a 20A solar charge controller, a four-in-one socket panel, and two banana plugs on its top face.

[bennelson] is using 12 AWG wire to match the 20A rating of the solar charge controller — including a fuse for safety — and lever lock-nut connectors to resolve some wiring complications. Industrial velcro keeps the top panel in place and easily removed should the need arise. When he’s out camping, he uses an 18V, 1A solar panel to charge, but can still use a DC power adapter to charge from the grid. Check out the full build video after the break!

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Imaging The Neighborhood with Solar Panels

Like many people who have a solar power setup at home, [Jeroen Boeye] was curious to see just how much energy his panels were putting out. But unlike most people, it just so happens that he’s a data scientist with a deep passion for programming and a flair for visualizations. In his latest blog post, [Jeroen] details how his efforts to explain some anomalous data ended with the discovery that his solar array was effectively acting as an extremely low-resolution camera.

It all started when he noticed that in some months, the energy produced by his panels was not following the expected curve. Generally speaking, the energy output of stationary solar panels should follow a clear bell curve: increasing output until the sun is in the ideal position, and then decreasing output as the sun moves away. Naturally cloud cover can impact this, but cloud cover should come and go, not show up repeatedly in the data.

Expected versus actual power output.

[Jeroen] eventually came to realize that the dips in power generation were due to two large trees in his yard. This gave him the idea of seeing if he could turn his solar panels into a rudimentary camera. In theory, if he compared the actual versus expected output of his panels at any given time, the results could be used as “pixels” in an image.

He started by creating a model of the ideal energy output of his panels throughout the year, taking into account not only obvious variables such as the changing elevation of the sun, but also energy losses through atmospheric dispersion. This model was then compared with the actual power output of his solar panels, and periods of low efficiency were plotted as darker dots to represent an obstruction. Finally, the plotted data was placed over a panoramic image taken from the perspective of the solar panels. Sure enough, the periods of low panel efficiency lined up with the trees and buildings that are in view of the panels.

We’ve seen plenty of solar hacks, but this one has to be something of a first. Usually people are more worried about maximizing efficiency or tracking the sun with them.

Making Solar Cells

We will admit that it is unlikely you have enough gear in your basement to make a solar cell using these steps. However, it is interesting to see how a bare silicon wafer becomes a solar cell. If you’ve seen ICs going through fabrication, you’ll see a lot of similarities, but there are some differences.

The process calls for a silicon wafer, some ovens, spin coaters, photolithography equipment, and a dice saw, among other things. Oh, you probably also need a clean room. Maybe you should just buy your solar cells off the shelf, but it is still interesting to see how they are made.

Modern solar cells have some extra structures to improve their efficiency, but the cells in this video are pretty garden-variety. For example, some experimental cells use multiple layers of active devices, each tuned to absorb a different wavelength of light.

If you really want to make your own, there’s another process where you can start with some copper and wind up with a kind of solar cell that uses a copper-based semiconductor material. But don’t be fooled into thinking that making the silicon variety is totally out of reach to hackers, we’ve seen [Sam Zeloof] pull it off.

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Smart DC Tester Better than a Dummy Load

Testing DC supplies can be done in many ways, from connecting an actual load like a motor, to using a dummy load in the manner of a big resistor. [Jasper Sikken] is opening up his smart tester for everyone. He is even putting it on Tindie! Normally a supply like a battery or a generator would be given multiple tests with different loads and periodic readings. Believe us, this can be tedious. [Jasper Sikken]’s simulated load takes away the tedium and guesswork by allowing the test parameters to be adjusted and recorded over a serial interface. Of course, this can be automated.

In the video after the break, you can see an adjustment in the constant-current mode from 0mA to 1000mA. His supply, meter, and serial data all track to within one significant digit. If you are testing any kind of power generator, super-capacitor, or potato battery and want a data log, this might be your ticket.

We love testers, from a feature-rich LED tester to a lead (Pb) tester for potable water.

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Mendocino Motor Drives Cubicle Conversations

Mendocino motors are solar-powered electric motors that rely on pseudo-levitation.  The levitation comes from magnets mounted on either end of the shaft, which repel same-field magnets fixed below them into the base.  When light shines on the solar panels, current flows through connected magnet wire windings, creating an electromagnetic field that interacts with a large stationary magnet mounted underneath. These constantly repelling forces spin the shaft, and the gaps between the solar panels provide the on-off cycle needed to make it spin 360°.

As [Konstantin] discovered, building this simple motor and getting it to spin depends on a lot of factors. The number of windings, the weight of each solar panel, and the magnet sizes all figure in. [Konstantin]’s struggles are your gain, however. His Instructable takes the guesswork out of the tolerances and he designed a nice, open-source 3D-printed structure to boot.

You’re right, these motors can’t do much work. But it would definitely look cool on your desk and might even start a conversation or two. If not, whip up this little electromagnetic train.

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Quick and Easy Solar Hot Air Balloon

[Becky Stern] likes to harness the power of the Sun. Most of us will immediately think of solar cells and other exotic solar energy techniques. But [Becky] shows how to make a hot air balloon using nothing but tape and garbage bags.

The idea is quite simple. You form a large envelope from black trash bags and fill it with air. Becky does that by just running with it, tying it off, and topping off with a little manual blowing. Once the sun heats the black bag, it floats.

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