Archive for the ‘Chemistry Hacks’ Category

Posted: October 30, 2010 in Chemistry Hacks

Wine cask sensor suite

posted Aug 4th 2010 1:00pm by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacks

As part of his Master’s dissertation [Salvador Faria] built a sensor suite for wine monitoring. He needed to develop a method of tracking data inside the wine cask during the vinification process. What he came up with eclipses the wine cellar temperature monitors we’ve seen before.

He picked up pH, temperature, carbon dioxide, alcohol, and relative humidity sensors from familiar vendors like Seeed, Parallax, and SparkFun. His original idea was to develop a floating probe that housed the entire package but he had quite a bit of trouble getting everything inside and maintaining buoyancy. The solution was a two-part probe; the stationary portion seen mounted on top of the cask houses the microcontroller, RF 433 MHz transmitter, and the gas sensors. Tethered to that is a floating probe that measures pH and temperature. Data is sent over radio frequency to an HTTP POST server every minute.

Making Nixie tubes at home

posted Jul 27th 2010 12:31pm by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacksclassic hacks

[Aleksander Zawada] makes vacuum tubes in his home. One of the most challenging builds he has taken on is to produce a working Nixie tube. He describes the process in a PDF, covering his success and failure. It seems the hardest part is to get the tube filled with the proper gas, at the proper pressure, and firmly seal it. In the end he managed to make a tube with three digits (0, 1, and 2) that worked for about 700 hours before burning out.

[Aleksander] joins [Jeri Ellsworth] on the short list of hackers who can pull off extremeindustrial manufacturing at home. Kudos.

[Thanks Duncan]

 

Posted: October 30, 2010 in Chemistry Hacks

Vapor phase reflow soldering

posted Oct 15th 2010 10:00am by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacks

Ditch that old toaster oven and move to the next level of surface mount soldering withthis vapor phase reflow method. [Ing.Büro R.Tschaggelar] put together this apparatus to use vapor phase reflow at his bench instead of sending out his smaller projects for assembly. It uses the heating element from an electric tea kettle to boil Galden HT 230 inside of a Pyrex beaker. There’s a copper heat break part way up the beaker to condense the chemical and keep it from escaping. When a populated board is lowered into the heated chamber, the solder paste reflows without the need to stress the components with unnecessary heat. Better than traditional reflow? At this level it’s hard to say, but we do find his method quite interesting.

[Thanks Chris]

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Oogoo, a home-made Sugru substitute

posted Oct 11th 2010 6:21am by Phil Burgess
filed under: chemistry hacksmisc hacks

If you follow Instructables.com, it might seem like every third article lately is aboutSugru, the nifty air-drying silicone putty that’s good for all manner of repairs and custom parts. It’s fantastic stuff (and we love their slogan, “Hack things better”), but one can’t (yet!) just drop in on any local hardware store to buy a quick fix…so [mikey77] hascooked up a recipe for a basic Sugru work-alike. His “Oogoo” (a name likely inspired by oobleck) is a simple mix of corn starch and silicone caulk.

A two-ingredient recipe would hardly seem adequate material for an article, but [mikey77]’s left no stone unturned, providing an extensive tutorial not only on mixing the compound, but how to add colors, cast and carve custom shapes, and how his home-made recipe compares to the name brand product. As a bonus, the article then drifts into a little Halloween project where he demonstrates etching conductive cloth, how to make conductive glue, and other hands-on shenanigans.

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Zinc sulfide glow power at home

posted Oct 3rd 2010 9:30am by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacks

Further solidifying her mad-scientist persona, [Jeri Ellsworth] is making glow powder with household chemicals. When we saw the title of the video we though it would be fun to try it ourselves, but the first few minutes scared that out of us.

To gather the raw materials she puts some pennies in a bench motor and files them into powder. From there it’s trial and error with different cleaners and tools to create just the right dangerous reaction to get the chemical properties she’s looking for.

Check out her experiments after the break. And if you find you’re wanting more, go back and take a look at her EL wire fabrication process.

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Homemade solid propellant rocket motors

posted Sep 28th 2010 6:11am by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacks

[KoD] and [Navic] are building solid propellant motors using sugar and potassium nitrate. They cook up the two ingredients along with water and a bonding agent. They find that corn syrup is particularly good for bonding and that cooking the strange brew is more of an artform than science. Either way, the video after the break is proof of the dangers involved in this hobby. Testing the engine thrust with a bathroom scale ends badly for the scale.

There is something satisfying about the ingenuity that goes into the materials. For a casing they’re using PVC pipe, and forming a cone to focus the thrust by using a what amounts to plumber’s epoxy putty. The capping agent for the finished motor is ground up kitty litter.

This is an interesting read, but for now we’re going to stick to water rockets.

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Scanning tunneling microscope under GPL3

posted Sep 27th 2010 7:00am by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacks

ChemHacker has posted schematics and code for a scanning tunneling microscope. [Sacha De’Angeli] finalized the proof-of-concept design for version 0.1 and released all of the information under the Gnu general public license version 3. You’ll need to build a sensor from a combination of a needle, a piezo, and a ring of magnets. There’s an analog circuit that gathers data from the probe, which is then formatted by and Arduino and sent to your computer.

We haven’t really dabbled in this type of equipment, though we did cover an STM earlier in the year. Take a look at the video after the break and then help jump-start are imagination by sharing your plans for this equipment in the comments.

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EL Wire: make it, connect it, power it

posted Aug 25th 2010 7:59am by Mike Szczys
filed under: chemistry hacks

[Jeri’s] back with a series of videos that outlines the step-by-step electroluminescent wire manufacturing, making EL panels from PCBs, and assembling power supplies for EL hardware. These concepts are actually quite approachable, something we don’t expect from someone who makes their own integrated circuits at home.

The concept here is that an alternating current traveling through phosphors will excite them and produce light. You need two conductors separated by a dielectric to get the job done. For wire, [Jeri] uses one strand of enameled magnet wire and one strand of bare wire. The enamel insulates them, protecting against a short circuit.

But that’s not all, she also tests using a circuit board as an EL panel. By repurposing the ground plane as one of the conductors, and using the solder mask as the dielectric she is able to paint on a phosphor product resulting in the glowing panel.

Finally, you’ve got to get juice to the circuit and that’s where her power supply video comes into the picture. We’ve embedded all three after the break. It’s possible that this is cooler than blinking LEDs and it’s fairly inexpensive to get started. The circuitry is forgiving, as long as you don’t zap yourself with that alternating current.

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[Jeri Ellsworth] continues her experiments with electroluminescence, this time she’s making EL ink. The ink she’s looking for is Zinc Sulfate in a solution. The process she chose is to re-dope some glow powder so that it can be excited by the field around an AC current. In her video (embedded after the break) she talks about the chemical properties she’s after by detailing a cubic lattice of zinc and sulfur atoms with an added copper atom (adding that atom is a process called doping).

The quick and dirty synopsis of the experiment starts by washing the glow powder with dish soap to acquire zinc sulfide crystals. Then she combined copper sulfate and zinc shavings from the inside of a modern penny to yield copper metal and zinc sulfate suspended in solution. That was mixed with the zinc sulfide from the glow powder washing and doped with a little more copper sulfate. The excess liquid is poured off, the test tube is capped with glass frit, and the whole thing hits the kiln to start the reaction. The result glows when excited by alternating current, but could have been improved by adding chlorine atoms into the mix.

We’re excited every time we see one of [Jeri’s] new chemistry hacks. We’d love to see more so if you’ve come across interesting chemistry experiments during your Internet travels, please let us know about them. Just make sure you have some idea of what you’re doing when working with chemicals… safety first.

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