Filming The Eclipse From 80,000 Feet

Watching an eclipse from the ground is pretty fun. Depending on where you live, you might even get a decent view. But what if you wanted a truly unique vantage point? You could replicate the work of [Tarik Agcayazi] and [kemfic], who set about filming the recent eclipse from an altitude of 80,000 feet.

That’s what the eclipse looks like from 80,000 feet.

The duo didn’t rent a high-performance aircraft from the US military. Instead, they relied on a high-altitude balloon carrying a glider with a camera payload. The idea was for the balloon to go up, and have the camera capture the eclipse. Then, it would be released so that it could glide back home in controlled flight. However, time constraints made that too hard. Instead, they simplified to a parachute recovery method.

The project video covers the development process, the balloon launch itself, and of course, the filming of the eclipse. High altitude balloon launches are stressful enough, but having a short eclipse as a target made everything even more difficult. But that just makes things more exciting!

The project builds on earlier work from the duo that we discussed back in 2017.

Continue reading “Filming The Eclipse From 80,000 Feet”

An image of an orange, translucent glowing quartz rod. Thermocouples can be seen at intervals along the rod looking in.

Industrial Solar Heat Hits 1000˚C

While electricity generation has been the star of the energy transition show, about half of the world’s energy consumption is to make heat. Many industrial processes rely on fossil fuels to reach high temps right now, but researchers at ETH Zurich have found a new way to crank up the heat with a solar thermal trap. [via SciTechDaily]

Heating water for showers or radiant floor systems in homes is old hat now, but industrial application of solar power has been few and far between. Part of the issue has been achieving high enough temperatures. Opaque absorbers can only ever get as hot as the incident surface where the sun hits them, but some translucent materials, like quartz can form thermal traps.

In a thermal trap, “it is possible to achieve temperatures that are higher in the bulk of the material than at the surface exposed to solar radiation.” In the study, the researchers were able to get a 450˚C surface to produce 1,050˚C interior temperature in the 300 mm long quartz rod. The system does rely on concentrated solar power, 135 suns-worth for this study, but mirror and lens systems for solar concentration already exist due to the aforementioned electrical power generation.

This isn’t the only time we’ve seen someone smelting on sunlight alone, and you can always do it less directly by using a hydrogen intermediary. If you’re wanting a more domestic-level of heat, why not try the wind if the sun doesn’t shine much in your neighborhood?

A small gauge showing power generated by a house's solar panels.

Cute Solar Power Gauge Brightens The Day

What’s the first thing you want after installing solar? All the sunshine you can get, of course. Especially if you did it in the wintertime. And what would be more fun than monitoring your power generation, especially leading up to the equinox, or start of spring? Probably not much, especially if you built a cute solar power gauge like [Ben] did to keep him from obsessively checking his phone.

At the heart of this build is the affordable Seeed Xiao ESP32C3, which controls an equally cost-effective automotive stepper via an L293D H-bridge driver. Then it was just a matter of hooking it into Home Assistant. As power is generated by the solar system, the cute little sun on the gauge rises and shows the kilowattage gained.

Unfortunately there’s no real data sheet for the stepper, so [Ben] opted to use the 5 V from the USB that’s powering the ESP32. However, it seems like this might not be enough power because the gauge appears to drift a bit. To fix this, [Ben] runs the stepper_init script twice a day, which cranks the dials all the way forward then all the way backward before settling on the last known value.

Are you interested in solar? Here’s how you can build a small power system.

Solar Panel Keeps Cheap Digital Calipers Powered Up

There’s no doubt that cheap digital calipers are useful, especially when designing 3D-printed parts. Unfortunately, cheap digital calipers are also cheap, and tend to burn through batteries quickly. Sure, you can remove the battery when you’re done using them, but that’s for suckers — winners turn to solar power to keep their calipers always at the ready.

[Johan]’s solar upgrade begins with, unsurprisingly, a solar cell, one that just fits on the back of his digital calipers. Like most of these cheap calipers, this one is powered by a single 1.5 V LR44 button cell, while the polycrystalline solar cell is rated for 5 V, so [Johan] used a red LED as a crude voltage regulator. He also added a stack of fourteen 100 μF SMD capacitors soldered together in parallel. The 1206 devices form a 1,400 μF block that’s smaller than the original button cell so that everything fits in the vacated battery compartment. It’s pretty slick.

Given their agreeable price point, digital calipers are a tempting target for hacking. We’ve seen a ton of them, from accessibility add-ons to WiFi connectivity and even repurposing them for use as DROs. Ever wonder how these things work? We’ve looked at that, too.

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: April 14, 2024

The Great American Eclipse v2.0 has come and gone, sadly without our traveling to the path of totality as planned; family stuff. We did get a report from friends in Texas that it was just as spectacular there as expected, with the bonus of seeing a solar flare off the southwest limb of the disk at totality. Many people reported seeing the same thing, which makes us a bit jealous — OK, a lot jealous. Of course, this presented an opportunity to the “Well, ackchyually” crowd to point out that there were no solar flares or coronal mass ejections at the time, so what people saw wasn’t an exquisitely timed and well-positioned solar flare but rather a well-timed and exquisitely positioned solar prominence. Glad we cleared that up. Either way, people in the path of totality saw the Sun belching out gigatons of plasma while we had to settle for 27% totality.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: April 14, 2024”

Lamp Becomes Rotating, Illuminated Sign For Festival Table

Two things we love are economical solutions to problems, and clever ways to use things for other than their intended purpose. [CelGenStudios] hits both bases with a simple illuminated and spinning sign made from a lamp and a couple economical pieces of hardware: an LED bulb, and a solar-powered product spinner. Both are readily and cheaply available from your favorite overseas source.

The first step in making a cheap illuminated sign is to not buy one, but instead make do with a standing lamp. Plug a bright LED bulb into the socket, decorate the lampshade with whatever logos or signs one wishes to display, and one has an economical illuminated sign suitable for jazzing up a table at an event. But what really kicks it up a notch is making it rotate, and to do that is where the clever bit comes in.

Mounting the lampshade to the solar turntable body yields a simple, rotating, illuminated sign.

The first attempt used a BBQ rotisserie motor to turn the whole lamp, but it was too loud and not especially stable. The second attempt used a “disco ball effect” LED bulb with a motorized top; it worked but turned too quickly and projected light upward instead of into the lampshade.

The winning combination is LED bulb plus a little solar-powered turntable onto which the lampshade mounts. As a result, the lampshade spins slowly when the lamp is turned on. It might not be the most durable thing to ever come out of a workshop, but as [CelGenStudios] says, it only needs to last for a weekend.

The basic concept is far more simple than it might sound, so check it out in the video (embedded below) to see it in action. Curious about what’s inside those little solar spinners? Skip to 5:55 in the video to see how they work. And if you’re intrigued by the idea of using solar power for motive force but want to get more hands-on with the electrical part, we have just the resource for turning tiny motors with tiny solar cells.

Thanks to [Bike Forever] for the tip!

Continue reading “Lamp Becomes Rotating, Illuminated Sign For Festival Table”

The PhotonPower Zero board laying on a desk surface

PhotonPower Zero For Effortless Solar Pi Zero Projects

A Pi Zero doesn’t need much to sustain itself, and it’s projects like the PhotonPower Zero that remind us of it its low appetite when we need this reminder most. The PhotonPower Zero board lets you power a Pi Zero board from a solar cell, with a LiIon backup, and a microcontroller for power management. Created by [David Murray], this board’s been a perfect solution for quite a few projects of his, and now he is sharing the design so that we can create outdoor-suited devices as easily as he’s been able to.

Tested for months in Australian summer and winter conditions alike, the design pulls no punches and has everything you might need. Like any self-respecting power addon, it has a management microcontroller for going as low-power as you’d like, communicating the battery data to the Pi Zero, and being able to safely shut it down when needed. If you fancy what this board does, [David Murray] tells you all, both in the video and in the associated posts!

One of the best parts about this board is that it’s fully open-source – schematics, KiCad PCB source files, and even 3D designs are available in the GitHub repo. You could source all the parts right now and build a fleet of solar-powered Zeros, and if you want the hard parts to be done for you, there’s a Kickstarter campaign that lets you get a PhotonPower Zero board without self-assembly. We’ve covered similar boards before – powering a Pi Zero isn’t lost art, and, there’s a lot to learn from this project specifically. Such boards are especially tempting, given that the latest Pi Zero W 2 is the most efficient Pi Zero to date – outdoor-capable 24/7 powered devices with a fair bit of CPU have never been this close!

Continue reading “PhotonPower Zero For Effortless Solar Pi Zero Projects”