Germicidal lamps are designed to destroy viruses and bacteria using ultraviolet light. But not just any UV light will work, and I came across an example of a lamp that was advertised as germicidal but a few things just weren’t right about it.
I ordered the UV-C germicidal LED lamp on Amazon, and received it a few days ago. It felt the suspicion from the first moment: playing around with a lot of different UV LEDs, I’ve learnt how the parasitic visible light from different UV ranges should look like to human eye. Also, proper UV-C LED lenses like the one shown here are made of quartz glass. Compare that to the image at the top of the article of the bulb I received that has a soft plastic lens, which is possibly opaque and degradable in the far UV range. The most important clue that something was wrong was the price. It’s hard to imagine that a UV-C LED lamp with the 253.7nm wavelength, made of more than 200 LEDs and in such a robust metal case, can cost only $62.99.
Although there was the risk of being unjust, I decided to return the product. In my message I bluffed that I measured the spectra of the lamp with a spectral emission meter, and that its output was not in the UV-C range. The next day I received confirmation that the bluff paid off: the seller replied that they advertised the product according to information from the supplier, and that the incorrect information was caused by their lack of understanding of product information. They also attached the official datasheet with the measured wavelength: it was not 253.7 nm, as advertised, but with the peak at 394.3 nm, and the dominant wavelength at 413.9 nm. It was not in the far UV-C, but in the near UV-A range and not at all useful for destroying germs! The seller promised that the product would be removed from their store, and kept the promise.
If you are thinking about buying a UV-C LED lamp, maybe you should get the good old CFL germicidal lamp. I don’t think that viruses care too much about the new technology.
It all started when I bought a late-1990s synthesizer that needed a firmware upgrade. One could simply pull the ROM chip, ship it off to Yamaha for a free replacement, and swap in the new one — in 2003. Lacking a time machine, a sensible option is to buy a pre-programmed aftermarket EPROM on eBay for $10, and if you just want a single pre-flashed EPROM that’s probably the right way to go. But I wanted an adventure.
Spoiler alert: I did manage to flash a few EPROMs and the RM1X is happily running OS 1.13 and pumping out the jams. That’s not the adventure. The adventure is trying to erase UV-erasable EPROMS.
And that’s how I ended up with a small cardboard fire and a scorched tanning lamp, and why I bought a $5 LED, and why I left EPROMs out in the sun for four days. And why, in the end, I gave up and ordered a $15 EPROM eraser from China. Along the way, I learned a ton about old-school UV-erasable EPROMs, and now I have a stack of obsolete silicon that’s looking for a new project like a hammer looks for a nail — just as soon as that UV eraser arrives in the mail.
If you ever needed evidence that gamers are some of the most dedicated individuals in all of fandom, then look no further than this fantastic 3D printed recreation of the “Pulse Pistol” as featured in the immensely popular “Overwatch”. Built by the guys at [Danger Doc], this replica doesn’t just look the part, it’s also a fully functional Airsoft gun. In the detailed build video after the break, the year-long design and construction of the gun is broken down for your viewing pleasure.
Because the end goal was to make something that looked as though it came from the game itself, a lot of time was put into making sure that the externals were faithful to the digital version while still able to contain all the hardware they needed to cram in there. This is a fully auto gun, so it needed a battery and motors, as well as a way to feed the firing mechanism Airsoft BBs that didn’t require an anachronistic magazine sticking out.
They combined a off-the-shelf firing mechanism and high-capacity magazine but it took plenty of custom designed parts to get everything mated up. The magazine has a clockwork mechanism to advance the BBs which required the user to manually crank up, but this was replaced with an electric motor to make things a little more futuristic. In addition to all the LEDs on the body of the gun, there’s also an internal array of ultraviolet SMD LEDs to charge the glow-in-the-dark “tracer” BBs as they move through the magazine. In low light, this gives the shots from the gun something of a laser effect.
Back in the old days, when we were still twiddling bits with magnetized needles, changing the data on an EPROM wasn’t as simple as shoving it in a programmer. These memory chips were erased with UV light shining through a quartz window onto a silicon die. At the time, there were neat little blacklights in a box sold to erase these chips. There’s little need for these chip erasers now, so how do you erase and program a chip these days? Build your own chip eraser using components that would have blown minds back in the 70s.
[Charles] got his hands on an old 2764 EPROM for a project, but this chip had a problem — there was still data on it. Fortunately, old electronics are highly resistant to abuse, so he pulled out the obvious equipment to erase this chip, a 300 watt tanning lamp. This almost burnt down the house, and after a second round of erasing of six hours under the lamp, there were still unerased bits.
Our ability to generate UV light has improved dramatically over the last fifty years, and [Charles] remembered he had an assortment of LEDs, including a few tiny 5mW UV LEDs. Can five milliwatts do what three hundred watts couldn’t? Yes; the LED had the right frequency to flip a bit, and erasing an EPROM is a function of intensity and time. All you really need to do is shine a LED onto a chip for a few hours.
With this vintage chip erased, [Charles] slapped together an EPROM programmer — with a programming voltage of 21V — out of an ATMega and a bench power supply. It eventually worked, allowing [Charles]’ project, a vintage liquid crystal display, to have the right data using vintage-correct parts.
Some of the hacks we feature are modifications of existing devices, others are ground-up builds of entirely new ones. And then there are the experiments, things that have to be worth trying because they just might work. In this final category we have [Matt]’s work with UV sensitive plastic to form the basis of a simple persistent display, which has created something best described as a proof-of-concept that shows promise, and definitely proves that he had an idea very much worth trying.
The idea makes use of a plastic that changes colour from white to purple when exposed to UV light. He 3D printed a waffle-like structure to locate over a 3×3 grid of UV LEDs, which he could then illuminate under the control of an Arduino Mini Pro. A short illumination changes the colour of the plastic above it, creating a “pixel” that persists for several seconds. In this he has created a working proof of concept for a very simple 3×3 matrix display, albeit rather an unwieldy one. The advantage the idea offers is that a relatively long time of display can be achieved for a relatively short LED illumination, giving a potential for power saving.
The proof-of-concept itself isn’t particularly useful, but from this idea it’s possible a larger display could be practically made. An array of surface-mount LEDs could perhaps illuminate a larger array of plastic to a greater resolution, it’s definitely an idea that was worth trying, and which shows promise for further pursuit. If you’d like to see it in action he’s posted a video, which we’ve placed below the break.
The image shown is the mineral Hackmanite, which fluoresces under ultraviolet lighting. However, not all UV is created equal, and that makes a difference if you’re into UV imaging. The image for this article is from [David Prutchi] and shows the striking results of using different wavelengths of UV. [David] goes into detail on how to make your own DIY Long, Medium, and Short-wave UV Illuminator complete with part numbers and wiring diagram. The device isn’t particularly complicated; the real work was determining the exact part numbers and models of lamp, filters, and ballasts required to get the correct results. [David] has done that work and shared it for anyone interested in serious UV fluorescence photography, along with a white paper on the process.
We’ve seen [David]’s work before. We featured his DIY short-wave UV imager in the past, and his DOLPi camera project was a 2015 Hackaday Prize finalist. It’s clear he really knows his stuff, and genuinely enjoys sharing his discoveries and work.
We’ve all seen how to peel IR filters off digital cameras so they can see a little better in the dark, but there’s so much more to this next project than that. How about being able to see things normally completely outside the visual spectrum, like hydrogen combustion or electrical discharges?
[David Prutchi] has just shared his incredible work on making his own shortwave ultraviolet viewers for imaging entirely outside of the normal visible spectrum – in other words, seeing the truly invisible. The project has not only fascinating application examples, but provides detailed information about how to build two different imagers – complete with exact part numbers and sources.
If you’re thinking UV is a broad brush, you’re right. [David Prutchi] says he is most interested in Solar Blind UV (SBUV):
Solar radiation in the 240 nm to 280 nm range is completely absorbed by the ozone in the atmosphere and cannot reach Earth’s surface…
Without interference from background light, even very weak levels of UV are detectable. This allows ultraviolet-emitting phenomena (e.g. electrical discharges, hydrogen combustion, etc.) to be detectable in full daylight.