While addressable LED strips are all the rage, [Mike] from [mikeselectricstuff] has been working on an installation using the more basic two-wire strips that are simply controlled via PWM dimming. He’s recently figured out a tidy way to send sensor signals down these strips without adding any additional cabling.
The build uses 24 V LED tape, which consists of gangs of 6 LEDs in series with a forward voltage of 3V. Thus, these strips don’t even begin to light until approximately 18V is across them.
By adding a 15 V Zener diode and a resistor across the MOSFET which dims the LEDs, a voltage of around 9 V can be put across the LEDs without lighting them up when the MOSFET PWM dimmer is in its off phase. A PIC10F322 microcontroller and an accelerometer can then be run from this voltage, with the aid of a 3.3 V regulator wired in parallel with the LEDs. The regulator must also be able to handle the full 24 V when the LEDs are switched on.
A transistor is also wired up, switching a 2.2 K resistor in parallel with the LEDs. When turned on by the PIC, this transistor causes roughly a 10 mA current to flow through the Zener diode and its series resistor. The voltage developed across that series resistor can be measured as the transistor is turned on and off. In this case, the pulse width used to turn that transistor on is relative to motion detected by the accelerometer on the end of the LED strip.
Turning the LEDs on at 100% duty cycle prevents the system working, as the pulse widths generated by the sensor circuit can’t be detected when the LED line is held high all the time. However, in practice, it matters not — running the LEDs at a maximum 98% duty cycle eliminates the issue.
It’s an ingenious way to send sensor signals down a two-wire LED strip, even if it does take a second to wrap one’s head around it. It also seems to do a great job of adding motion-reactive effects to the LED strips in question. It’s not the first LED project we’ve seen from [Mike], either. Video after the break.
We always enjoy [w2aew’s] videos, and his latest on zener diodes is no exception. In it, he asserts that all Zener diodes are not created equal. Why? You’ll have to watch the video below to find out.
Zener diodes are one of those strange items that have several uses but are not as popular as they once were. There was a time when the Zener was a reasonable way to regulate a voltage inexpensively and easily. Unfortunately the regulation characteristics were not very good, and the power lost was very high. But that was sometimes a reasonable trade, compared to putting a pass transistor and the associated discrete circuitry in place to make a linear regulator. With the advent of chips like the 7800-series regulators, you can have a high-quality regulator with one extra wire and still keep your costs under $1. Even if you want to do better and go with a switching power supply, that’s easy now and not much more expensive.
[Kevin Darrah] wanted to make a simple 3.3V regulator without using an integrated circuit. He wound up using two common NPN transistors and 4 1K resistors. The circuit isn’t going to beat out a cheap linear regulator IC, but for the low component count, it is actually pretty good.
In all fairness, though, [Kevin] may have two transistors, but he’s only using one of them as a proper transistor. That one is a conventional pass regulator like you might find in any regulator circuit. The other transistor only has two connections. The design reverse biases the base-emitter junction which results in a roughly 8V breakdown voltage. Essentially, this transistor is being used as a poor-quality Zener diode.
As active devices go, it doesn’t get much simpler than a diode. Two terminals. Current flows in one direction and not in the other. Simple, right? Well, then there are examples with useful side effects like light emitting diodes. [GreatScott] points out that there are other useful diodes and, in particular, he posted a video covering Schottky and Zener diodes.
These special diodes have particular purposes. A Schottky diode has a very low voltage drop and fast switching speed. Zener diodes have application in simple voltage regulation.
[Hans] wanted to see the frequency response of a bandpass filter but didn’t have a lot of test equipment. Using an RTL-SDR dongle, some software and a quickly made noise generator, he still managed to get a rough idea of the filter’s characteristics.
How did he do it? He ‘simply’ measured his noise generator frequency characteristics with and without the bandpass filter connected to its output and then subtracted one curve with the other. As you can see in the diagram above, the noise generator is based around a zener diode operating at the reverse breakdown voltage. DC blocking is then done with a simple capacitor.
Given that a standard RTL-SDR dongle can only sample a 2-3MHz wide spectrum gap at a time, [Hans] used rtlsdr-scanner to sweep his region of interest. In his write-up, he also did a great job at describing the limitations of such an approach: for example, the dynamic range of the ADC is only 48dB.
[Guido Socher] does an excellent job of presenting his bench supply project. So many others show of the final product, but he has gone out of his way to make sure we understand the design principles that went into it. He starts off by talking about the simplest possible supply design: a transistor and Zener diode which generates a reference voltage. He goes on to discuss the problems with this simplified circuit and how to address them, covering the gotchas that pop up at each step in the process.
Once he designed the circuit and laid out some boards he began building an enclosure. We love his tip about using a stick pin and an unpopulated through-hole PCB to mark button locations on the front bezel of the case. The final design is shown above, and includes a laptop brick to translate mains power into a 24V 3A DC feed for his custom circuitry.
This method requires only four signals (TDI, TMS, TCK and TDO) plus ground. But the problem is that an RS232 serial port operates with 12V logic levels and the JTAG side of the programmer needs to operate with the logic levels native to the device you’re programming. Commercial programmers use a level convert IC to take care of this for you, but that doesn’t mesh with the cheap goal of this project. Instead, [Nicholas] uses Zener diodes and voltage dividers to make the conversion. There is also an LED for each data signal to give some feedback if you’re having trouble.
You can use this along with a programming application that [Nicholas] whipped up using Visual Studio. It works well via the serial port, but he did try programming with a USB-to-Serial dongle. He found that this method slows the process down to an unbearable 5-minutes. Take a look, maybe you can help to get that sloth-like programming up to a manageable speed.