UV Photography Box Is Great For Shooting Fancy Rocks

If you want to shoot photographs of various fluorescent UV-related phenomena, it’s hard to do so when ambient light is crowding out your subject. For this work, you’ll want a dedicated UV photography box, and [NotLikeALeafOnTheWind] has a design that might just work for you.

The build is set up for both UVA and UVC photography. Due to the danger posed by the latter, and even the former in some cases, the builder recommends never using the box with a direct-view camera. If it must be done, the eyepiece should be covered to avoid any exposure to harmful light. The key rule? Never look directly into a UV source.

Light sources that can be used include UV LEDs, lamps, and tubes. The box is sealed to keep out external light. It then features a turntable that can be manipulated from outside the box, allowing samples inside to be rotated as necessary. Using a camera with a macro or wide-angled lens is recommended for the work.

The photographs taken inside the box are stunning. They remind us of childhood museum trips, where we marvelled at the magic of the fluorescent rock displays. We’ve featured some other great fluorescence projects before, too. If you’re cooking up your own great scientific builds in the lab, we’d love to see those too. Hit us up on the tipsline!

Broken Genes And Scrambled Proteins: How Radiation Causes Biological Damage

If decades of cheesy sci-fi and pop culture have taught us anything, it’s that radiation is a universally bad thing that invariably causes the genetic mutations that gifted us with everything from Godzilla to Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish. There’s a kernel of truth there, of course. One only needs to look at pictures of what happened to Hiroshima survivors or the first responders at Chernobyl to see extreme examples of what radiation can do to living tissues.

But as is usually the case, a closer look at examples a little further away from the extremes can be instructive, and tell us a little more about how radiation, both ionizing and non-ionizing, can cause damage to biochemical structures and processes. Doing so reveals that, while DNA is certainly in the crosshairs for damage by radiation, it’s not the only target — proteins, carbohydrates, and even the lipids that form the membranes within cells are subject to radiation damage, both directly and indirectly. And the mechanisms underlying all of this end up revealing a lot about how life evolved, as well as being interesting in their own right.

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Toilet Paper Tube Pulls Dissolved Resin From IPA, Cures It For Disposal

SLA 3D printing with resin typically means rinsing parts with IPA (isopropyl alcohol). That process results in cloudy, used IPA containing a high concentration of dissolved resin. The dual goals of cleaning and reusing IPA are important ones, and we have to say, [Jan Mrázek]’s unusual experiment involving a UV source and slowly-rotating paper tube to extract and cure dissolved resin might look odd, but the results are definitely intriguing.

Dissolved resin successfully pulled from IPA and cured onto a cardboard roll. This particular one rotated a bit too quickly, trapping IPA in the curing process and yielding a slightly rubbery wad instead of a hard solid.

The best way to dispose of liquid resin is to cure it into a solid, therefore making it safe to throw away. But what about resin that has been dissolved into a cleaning liquid like IPA? [Jan] felt that there was surely a way to extract the dissolved resin somehow, which would also leave the IPA clean for re-use. His solution? The device shown here, which uses a cardboard tube to pull dissolved resin from an IPA bath and a UV source to cure it onto the tube.

Here’s how it works: the tube’s bottom third sits in dirty IPA, and UV LEDs shine on the top of the tube. The IPA is agitated with a magnetic stirrer for best results. A motor slowly rotates the cardboard tube; dissolved resin gets on the tube at the bottom, UV cures it at the top, and the whole thing repeats. Thin layers of cured resin slowly build up, and after long enough, the roll of cured resin can be thrown away and the IPA should be clean enough for reuse.

So far it’s a pretty successful test of a concept, but [Jan] points out that there are still some rough edges. Results depend on turning the tube at a good rate; turning it too quickly results in IPA trapped with the cured residue. On the plus side, the UV source doesn’t need to be particularly powerful. [Jan] says that Ideally this would be a device one could run in a sealed container, cleaning it over one or two days.

Resin printing is great, but it’s a messy process, so anything that makes it less wasteful is worth checking out. Got any ideas for improving or building on this concept? If so, don’t keep ’em to yourself! Let us know in the comments.

The Warm Glow Of A Luminous Clock

It seems there will never be an end to the number of ways to show the time. The latest is the LumiClock from [UK4dshouse], and it uses the seldom-seen approach of a sheet of luminous paper excited by a strip of UV LEDs that pass over it guided by a lead screw.

At its heart is a micro:bit, which generates the time in dot-matrix digital form as the LEDs are moved across the sheet. It in turn has a real-time-clock module to keep it on time, and it drives a little DC motor via a robotics driver board. The appearance of the whole devices is similar to an X-Y plotter without the Y axis, as a 3D-printed carrier is moved by the lead screw and slides along a pair of stainless steel tubes. The result is an unusual and eye-catching timepiece, whose retro dot-matrix numerals fade away and are refreshed with the new time.

We’ve had a bit of a play ourselves with UV luminous materials, and we can confirm they make an interesting alternative to some other display ideas in dimmer environments. This isn’t the first such clock we’ve shown you.

A Google Pixel 3a with a filter wheel attached to its camera

Hackaday Prize 2022: Multispectral Smartphone Camera Reveals Paintings’ Inner Secrets

Multispectral imaging, or photography using wavelengths other than those in ordinary visible light, has various applications ranging from earth observation to forgery detection in art. For example, titanium white and lead white, two pigments used in different historical eras, look identical in visible light but have distinct signatures in the UV range. Similarly, IR imaging can reveal a painting’s inner layers if the pigments used are transparent to IR.

Equipment for such a niche use is naturally quite pricey, so [Sean Billups] decided to transform an older model smartphone into a handheld multispectral camera, which can help him analyze works of art without breaking the bank. It uses the smartphone’s camera together with a filter wheel attachment that enables it to capture different spectral ranges. [Sean] chose to use a Google Pixel 3a, mainly because it’s cheaply available, but also because it has a good image sensor and camera software. Modifying the camera to enable IR and UV imaging turned out to be a bit of a challenge, however.

Image sensors are naturally sensitive to IR and UV, so cameras typically include a filter to block anything but visible light. To remove this filter from the Pixel’s camera [Sean] had to heat the camera module to soften the adhesive, carefully remove the lens, then glue a piece of plastic to the filter and pull it out once the glue had set. Perfecting this process took a bit of trial and error, but once he managed to effect a clear separation between camera and filter it was simply a matter of reattaching the lens, assembling the phone and mounting the filter wheel on its back.

The 3D-printed filter wheel has slots for four different filters, which can enable a variety of IR, UV and polarized-light imaging modes. In the video embedded below [Sean] shows how the IR reflectography mode can help to reveal the underdrawing in an oil painting. The system is designed to be extendable, and [Sean] has already been looking at adding features like IR and UV LEDs, magnifying lenses and even additional sensors like spectrometers.

We’ve seen a handful of multispectral imaging projects before; this drone-mounted system was a contestant for the 2015 Hackaday Prize, while this project contains an excellent primer on UV imaging.

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SHERLOC And The Search For Life On Mars

Humanity has been wondering about whether life exists beyond our little backwater planet for so long that we’ve developed a kind of cultural bias as to how the answer to this central question will be revealed. Most of us probably imagine that NASA or some other space agency will schedule a press conference, an assembled panel of scientific luminaries will announce the findings, and newspapers around the world will blare “WE ARE NOT ALONE!” headlines. We’ve all seen that movie before, so that’s the way it has to be, right?

Probably not. Short of an improbable event like an alien spacecraft landing while a Google Street View car was driving by or receiving an unambiguously intelligent radio message from the stars, the conclusion that life exists now or once did outside our particular gravity well is likely to be reached in a piecewise process, an accretion of evidence built up over a long time until on balance, the only reasonable conclusion is that we are not alone. And that’s exactly what the announcement at the end of last year that the Mars rover Perseverance had discovered evidence of organic molecules in the rocks of Jezero crater was — another piece of the puzzle, and another step toward answering the fundamental question of the uniqueness of life.

Discovering organic molecules on Mars is far from proof that life once existed there. But it’s a step on the way, as well as a great excuse to look into the scientific principles and engineering of the instruments that made this discovery possible — the whimsically named SHERLOC and WATSON.

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UV sensing amulet

Tiny Talisman Warns Wearer About UV Exposure

Given how important our Sun is, our ancestors can be forgiven for seeing it as a god. And even now that we know what it actually is and how it works, it’s not much of a reach to think that the Sun pours forth evil spirits that can visit disease and death on those who bask too long in its rays. So an amulet of protection against the evil UV rays is a totally reasonable project, right?

As is often the case with [mitxela]’s projects, especially the more bedazzled ones, this one is approximately equal parts electronics and fine metalworking. The bulk of the video below focuses on the metalwork, which is pretty fascinating stuff. The case for the amulet was made from brass and sized to fit a CR2032 coin cell. The back of the amulet is threaded to act as a battery cover, and some fancy lathe work was needed there. The case was also electroplated in gold to prevent tarnishing, and lends a nice look when paired up with the black solder mask of the PCB.

On the electronics side, [mitxela] took pains to keep battery drain as low as possible and to make the best use of the available space, choosing an ATtiny84 to support a TTP223 capacitive sensing chip and a VEML6075 UV sensor. The touch sensor allows the wearer to wake the amulet and cycles through UV modes, which [mitxela] learned were not exactly what the sensor datasheet said they were. This required a few software hacks, but in the end, the amulet does a decent job of reporting the UV index and looks fantastic while doing it.

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