Solar garden lights and many other similar trinkets typically rely on cheap rechargeable batteries as a power source when the sun isn’t shining. [Darryl] figured that a supercapacitor could do the job instead, and set about building a solar supercap power supply that could run various projects.
The power supply is built to use a small 60 x 40mm solar panel that provides approximately 500 mW at max output. This charges two supercapacitors which feed their output into a TPS61200 boost converter, specifically designed for working with ultra-low input voltages down to 0.3 V. The boost convert can then be configured to output 3.3 V or 5 V depending on the desired voltage for the device to be powered. A special MOSFET array part is used to charge the dual supercaps in series, ensuring they stay balanced and don’t get overcharged by the sun.
The design has worked well in practice. [Darryl] reports that it has successfully powered a LoRa device reporting every 10 minutes for over two years without issue.
Solar power is a magical thing, capable of providing energy for free if you can get out there and capture it. If you’re working on your own solar-powered projects, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!
One of the problems with using a Raspberry Pi or most other systems in a production environment is dealing with sudden shutdowns due to power loss. Modern operating systems often keep data in memory that should be on disk, and a sudden power cycle can create problems. One answer is an uninterruptible power supply, but maintaining batteries is no fun. [Scott] wanted to do better, so he built a UPS using supercapacitors.
A supercapacitor UPS is nearly ideal. The caps charge quickly and don’t wear out as a battery does. The capacitors also don’t care if they stay in storage for a long time. The only real downside is they don’t have the capacity that batteries can have, but for a small computer like a Pi Zero it is pretty easy to gang up enough capacitors to do the job.
Continue reading “A Super UPS For The Pi” →
[Julian] needed to weld a bit of nickel to some steel and decided to use a spot welding technique. Of course he didn’t have a spot welder sitting around. Since these are fairly simple machines so [Julian] set out to build a spot welder using a charged supercapacitor. The fundamentals all seem to be there — the supercap is a 100 Farad unit and with a charge of 2.6V, that works out to over 300 joules — yet it simply doesn’t work.
The problem is in how the discharge energy is being directed. Just using the capacitor would cause the charge to flow out as a spark when you got near the point to discharge. To combat this, [Julian] put a microswitch between the capacitor and the copper point he expected to use as the welding tip. The microswitch, of course, is probably not the best for carrying a large surge of current, so we suspect that may be part of why he didn’t get great results.
The other thing we noticed is that he used a single point and used the workpiece as a ground return. Most spot welders use two points near each other or on each side of the workpiece. The current from the capacitor is probably just absorbed by the relatively large piece of metal.
The second video below from [American Tech] shows a 500F capacitor doing spot welding with little more than two wires and it seems to work. Hackaday’s own [Sean Boyce] even made one out of some whopping 3000F caps. It did work, although he’s been pursuing improvements.
Continue reading “Fail Of The Week: Supercapacitor Spot Welder” →
[Mike Harrison] is known for incredibly tiny soldering. Now he’s claiming a “world’s smallest” in the form of a stand-alone LED blinker, and we think he’s got the record.
He brought it along with him to Friday’s Beagleboard Bring-a-Hack, and we got a close look at the diminutive assembly. The project was dreamed up when [Mike] saw an announcement from Seiko about a new supercapacitor in a tiny package (likely the CPH3225A giving the blinky a footprint of 3.2 x 2.5 mm). With that in hand he added a PIC 10f322 microcontroller in a SOT23 package, an 0603 smoothing capacitor, and an SMD LED.
Blinky net to a metric ruler
US Quarter for scale (ruler is metric)
Charging jig doubles as a carrying case
With such a tiny package, the trickiest part is figuring out how to charge that supercap. [Mike] used a drill and hand files to make a square hole in a CR2032 battery holder to serve as a jig. The bottom of the supercap rests against the battery as a pogo pin makes the second connection to a terminal on the side of his assembly. It charges quickly and will happily blink away for about six minutes after charging.
Mike set out to make two of these, but dropped the second supercap when at his workbench to be forever lost in the detritus common to every electronics workshop. When he first pulled it out at the meetup we were on a rooftop terrace and we were more than a bit concerned that this would just blow away. How do you begin to fabricate such a tiny assembly? He used UV cured epoxy to glue them together first, then somehow completed the soldering by hand!
Continue reading “World’s Smallest LED Blinky” →
If there’s one thing that brings hackers together, it’s the ability to build something for less money than it takes to buy it. It’s an exercise [Great Scott Gadgets] put to the test because he was playing around with some 18650 lithium cells, and had a huge need to put some tabs on batteries. This can be done by soldering, but to do it right you should really use a spot welder. Here’s the rub: you can buy a spot welder for about $250, and you can build one for a little less. So, the question: should [Great Scott] build or buy a spot welder? This wouldn’t be worth reading if he started off with an eBay order.
[Great Scott] designed this spot welder around a half-dozen supercaps, all securely held together with Kapton tape. This goes through a set of MOSFETs, and everything is controlled through an Arduino, a rotary encoder, and a dirt-cheap OLED display. It’s a simple enough circuit but a bit too much for perfboard, so [Great Scott] laid out a PCB and got a few boards for under $40. A bit of solder and some debugging later, and theoretically a spot welder was created.
After all that work, how did the spot welder work? Well, it didn’t. A slight misstep in the schematic meant this board didn’t have reference ground on the MOSFETs, so all this work was for naught. Of course, the only thing required to fix this board was a second board spin, as [Great Scott] probably bought more parts than necessary because that’s what smart people do. Still, he decided to cut his losses and shelve the project.
Continue reading “The Un-Economy Of Building Your Own Spot Welder” →
[Mile]’s PTPM Energy Scavenger takes the scavenging idea seriously and is designed to gather not only solar power but also energy from temperature differentials, vibrations, and magnetic induction. The idea is to make wireless sensor nodes that can be self-powered and require minimal maintenance. There’s more to the idea than simply doing away with batteries; if the devices are rugged and don’t need maintenance, they can be installed in locations that would otherwise be impractical or awkward. [Mile] says that goal is to reduce the most costly part of any supply chain: human labor.
The prototype is working well with solar energy and supercapacitors for energy storage, but [Mile] sees potential in harvesting other sources, such as piezoelectric energy by mounting the units to active machinery. With a selectable output voltage, optional battery for longer-term storage, and a reference design complete with enclosure, the PPTM Energy Scavenger aims to provide a robust power solution for wireless sensor platforms.
Consider for a second the Internet of Things. A vast network of connected devices, programmable matter, and wearable electronics can only mean one thing: there’s going to be a ton of batteries. While changing the battery in a smoke detector may seem tolerable, changing the batteries in a thousand sensor nodes is untenable. The solution to this problem is self-contained sensor nodes, and right now the best power source for mobile devices is probably solar.
For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Shantam Raj] is building a self-contained sensor node. It’s a Bluetooth device for the Internet side of this Thing, but the real trick to this device is solar energy harvesting and low power capabilities through optimized firmware.
Basically, this system is a low-power SoC with Bluetooth. The power from this device comes from a small solar cell coupled with a very efficient power supply and some new, interesting supercapacitors from Murata. These supercaps are extremely small, have high storage capacity, low ESR, and fast charging and discharging. The test board (seen in the video below) provides a proof of concept, but this device has a problem: there’s a single ‘sanity check’/power LED on the board that consumes 4 mA. The microcontroller, when running the optimized firmware, only consumes 1 mA. Yes, the LED thrown into the prototype that only serves as an indication the device is on is the biggest power sink in the entire system.
This project is great, and it’s exactly what we’re looking for in The Hackaday Prize. If the Internet of Things ever happens as it was envisioned, we’re going to be buried under a mountain of coin cell lithium batteries. Some sort of energy harvesting scheme is the only way around this, and we’re happy to see someone is working on the problem.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Self Sustained Low Power Nodes” →