Posts with «science» label

Electrochemistry at Home

A few years ago, I needed a teeny, tiny potentiostat for my biosensor research. I found a ton of cool example projects on Hackaday and on HardwareX, but they didn’t quite fulfill exactly what I needed. As any of you would do in this type of situation, I decided to build my own device.

Now, we’ve talked about potentiostats before. These are the same devices used in commercial glucometers, so they are widely applicable to a number of biosensing applications. In my internet perusing, I stumbled upon a cool chip from Texas Instruments called the LMP91000 that initially appeared to do all the hard work for me. Unfortunately, there were a few features of the LMP91000 that were a bit limiting and didn’t quite give me the range of flexibility I required for my research. You see, electrochemistry works by biasing a set of electrodes at a given potential and subsequently driving a chemical reaction. The electron transfer is measured by the sensing electrode and converted to a voltage using a transimpedance amplifier (TIA). Commercial potentiostats can have voltage bias generators with microVolt resolution, but I only needed about ~1 mV or so. The problem was, the LMP91000 has a resolution of ~66 mV on a 3.3 V supply, mandating that I augment the LMP991000 with an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC) as others had done.

However, changing the internal reference of the LMP91000 with the DAC confounded the voltage measurements from the TIA, since the TIA is also referenced to the same internal zero as the voltage bias generator. This seemed like a problem other DIY solutions I came across should have mentioned, but I didn’t quite find any other papers describing this problem. After punching myself a little, I thought that maybe it was a bit more obvious to everyone else except me. It can be like that sometimes. Oh well, it was a somewhat easy fix that ended up making my little potentiostat even more capable than I had originally imagined.

I could have made a complete custom potentiostat circuit like a few other examples I stumbled upon, but the integrated aspect of the LMP91000 was a bit too much to pass up. My design needed to be as small as possible since I would eventually like to integrate the device into a wearable. I was using a SAMD21 microcontroller with a built-in DAC, therefore remedying the problem was a bit more convenient than I originally thought since I didn’t need an additional chip in my design.

I am definitely pretty happy with the results. My potentiostat, called KickStat, is about the size of a US quarter dollar with a ton of empty space that could be easily trimmed on my next board revision. I imagine this could be used as a subsystem in any number of larger designs like a glucometer, cellphone, or maybe even a smartwatch.

Check out all the open-source files on my research lab’s GitHub page. I hope my experience will be of assistance to the hacker community. Definitely a fun build and I hope you all get as much kick out of it as I did.

A Miniature Radio Telescope in Every Backyard

You probably wouldn’t expect to see somebody making astronomical observations during a cloudy day in the center of a dense urban area, but that’s exactly what was happening at the recent 2019 Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire. Professor James Aguirre of the University of Pennsylvania was there demonstrating the particularly compact Mini Radio Telescope (MRT) project built around an old DirecTV satellite dish and a smattering of low-cost components, giving visitors a view of the sky in a way most had never seen before.

Thanks to the project’s extensive online documentation, anyone with a spare satellite dish and a couple hundred dollars in support hardware can build their very own personal radio telescope that’s capable of observing objects in the sky no matter what the time of day or weather conditions are. Even if you’re not interested in peering into deep space from the comfort of your own home, the MRT offers a framework for building an automatic pan-and-tilt directional antenna platform that could be used for picking up signals from orbiting satellites.

With the slow collapse of satellite television in the United States these dishes are often free for the taking, and a fairly common sight on the sidewalk come garbage day. Perhaps there’s even one (or three) sitting on your own roof as you read this, waiting for a new lease on life in the Netflix Era.

Whether it’s to satisfy your own curiosity or because you want to follow in Professor Aguirre’s footsteps and use it as a tool for STEM outreach, projects like MRT make it easier than ever to build a functional DIY radio telescope.

Point and Shoot

The MRT, and really any radio telescope project like this, is essentially made up of two separate systems: one that provides the motorized aiming of the dish, and the receiver that actually captures the signals. Either system could work independently of the other, but when combined with the appropriate software “glue”, they allow the user to map the sky in radio frequencies.

Obviously, the electronics and mechanical components required to pan an antenna across the sky aren’t terribly complex. If you wanted to keep things really simple and were content with moving in a single axis, you could even do it with a “barn door” tracker. What’s really kicked off the recent explosion of DIY radio telescopes is the RTL-SDR project and the era of low-cost Software Defined Radios (SDRs) it’s inspired.

Unsurprisingly, the MRT also uses an RTL-SDR receiver for processing signals from the Low-Noise Block (LNB) in the dish. Professor Aguirre says that since they are still using the stock DirecTV LNB, the telescope is fairly limited in what it can actually “see”. But it’s good enough to image the sun or pick up satellites in orbit, which is sufficient for the purposes of demonstrating the basic operating principles of a radio telescope.

To move the satellite dish, the MRT is using an Arduino connected to a trio of Big Easy Drivers from Sparkfun. These are in turn connected to the stepper motors in the antenna mount, which are sufficiently geared so they can move the dish around without the need for a counterweight. This makes it an excellent candidate for enclosure inside a dome, which would allow for all-weather observations.

Both the RTL-SDR receiver and the Arduino are connected to a Raspberry Pi, which runs the software for the telescope and provides the interface for the user. The MRT GitHub repository contains all of the various tools and programs created for the project, mostly written in Python, which should provide a useful reference even if you’re not interested in duplicating the telescope’s overall design.

Wandering Through the Sky

When we visited Professor Aguirre, he was attempting to use the MRT to find the Sun. You’d think that a simple enough task in the middle of the afternoon, but thanks to an unbroken layer of steel-gray clouds hanging low in the October sky, Sol was absolutely nowhere to be found with our meager human senses.

Geostationary satellites as seen by the MRT

As the dish made its slow robotic pans across the sky, we spoke with the Professor about the telescope and the various revisions it went through over the years. Eventually the display lit up, showing a representation of an unusually strong signal, clearly the MRT was hearing something out there. After brief scrutiny, the Professor announced that we hadn’t found the sun; instead, the telescope most likely crossed paths with a geostationary satellite.

It was this raconteur style of discovery that kept visitors to the Mini Radio Telescope enthralled. Nobody expected this hacked together contraption of consumer-grade hardware to discover a new exoplanet or help solve some long-pondered mystery of the cosmos while sitting in a Philadelphia parking lot.

But it was more than capable of pointing out objects tens of thousands of kilometers away while our own eyes couldn’t even figure out where the Sun was. It reaffirmed in a very real way that something was out there, and students both young and old couldn’t help but be fascinated by it.

3 Reasons You Should Register For Maker Faire Shenzhen Now

This year, Maker Faire Shenzhen 2019 will be focusing on the theme “To the Heart of Community, To the Cluster of Industry”. With a full chain events for technological innovations, you can look forward to the Maker Summit Forum, Maker Booths (includes highlights and performances), as well as Innovation workshops. […]

Read more on MAKE

The post 3 Reasons You Should Register For Maker Faire Shenzhen Now appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Exploring a classic physics problem with Arduino

As described in this project’s write-up, “The brachistochrone curve is a classic physics problem, that derives the fastest path between two points A and B which are at different elevations.” In other words, if you have a ramp leading down to another point, what’s the quickest route?

Intuitively—and incorrectly—you might think this is a straight line, and while you could work out the solution mathematically, this rig releases three marbles at a time, letting them cruise down to the Arduino Uno-based timing mechanism to see which path is fastest. 

The ramps are made out of laser-cut acrylic, and the marbles each strike a microswitch to indicate they’ve finished the race. The build looks like a great way to cement a classic physics problem in students’ minds, and learn even more while constructing the contraption!

Researchers develop new device to easily measure fluoride in drinking water

Fluoride can be healthy in certain concentrations, but above a certain level it instead has the opposite effect, causing serious dental and bone diseases. While the cost and benefit of any substance use has to be carefully weighted, up until now, verification that water source isn’t contaminated—above just 2 ppm—has been the purview of well-equipped laboratories.

The prototype device used with SION-105 to detect fluoride anions in drinking water
(Photo: Marie-Thé and Etienne Roux)

Researchers at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, however, have come up with a technique that can accurately determine fluoride concentrations using only a few drops of water. The key to this development is a new compound known as SION-105, which is normally luminescent, but darkens when it encounters fluoride. This means that instead of more expensive laboratory equipment, UV LEDs can be used with a photodiode to quantitatively measure the substance’s appearance, and thus the quantity of fluoride in drinking water. 

A photograph of SION-105 suspended in solvents with (L) and without (R) fluoride ion contamination. (Photo: Mish Ebrahim)

From the images in EPFL’s write-up, the prototype test apparatus appears to utilize several commonly available components, including an Arduino Uno and small OLED display for user feedback.

Published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), the device is named SION-105, is portable, considerably cheaper than current methods, and can be used on-site by virtually anyone.

The key to the device is the design of a novel material that the scientists synthesized (and after which the device is named). The material belongs to the family of “metal-organic frameworks” (MOFs), compounds made up of a metal ion (or a cluster of metal ions) connected to organic ligands, thus forming one-, two-, or three-dimensional structures. Because of their structural versatility, MOFs can be used in an ever-growing list of applications, e.g. separating petrochemicals, detoxing water, and getting hydrogen or even gold out of it.

SION-105 is luminescent by default, but darkens when it encounters fluoride ions. “Add a few droplets of water and by monitoring the color change of the MOF one can say whether it is safe to drink the water or not,” explains Mish Ebrahim, the paper’s first author. “This can now be done on-site, without any chemical expertise.”

Arduino Blog 12 Feb 20:27

Watch These Makers Transform a Wheelchair into an Interactive Bumblebee Costume

Central Florida Maker groups use their diverse skills to create an interactive Bumblebee costume in only 3 weeks for a Magic Wheelchair recipient.

Read more on MAKE

The post Watch These Makers Transform a Wheelchair into an Interactive Bumblebee Costume appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Catch Some (Major) Air: New Space Humble Bundle!

  We were glued to our screens last month as NASA successfully landed the InSight module on Mars. (Bet you were, too.) What an amazing sight a Martian sunrise turns out to be! Now, we’ve got the bug. The bigtime Space Bug. Accordingly, our final Humble Bundle ebook deal of […]

Read more on MAKE

The post Catch Some (Major) Air: New Space Humble Bundle! appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Smart Citizen Opens Eyes and Ears in Barcelona

More often than not, our coverage of projects here at Hackaday tends to be one-off sort of thing. We find something interesting, write it up for our beloved readers, and keep it moving. There’s an unending world of hacks and creations out there, and not a lot of time to cover them all. Still, it’s nice when we occasionally see a project we’ve previously covered “out in the wild” so to speak. A reminder that, while a project’s time on the Hackaday front page might be fleeting, their journey is far from finished.

A perfect example can be found in a recent article posted by the BBC about the battle with noise in Barcelona’s Plaza del Sol. The Plaza is a popular meeting place for tourists and residents alike, with loud parties continuing into the middle of the night, those with homes overlooking the Plaza were struggling to sleep. But to get any changes made, they needed a way to prove to the city council that the noise was beyond reasonable levels.

Enter the Smart Citizen, an open source Arduino-compatible sensor platform developed by Fab Lab Barcelona. We originally covered the Smart Citizen board back in 2013, right after it ran a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter. Armed with the data collected by Smart Citizen sensors deployed around the Plaza, the council has enacted measures to try to quiet things down before midnight.

Today people tend to approach crowdfunded projects with a healthy dose of apprehension, so it’s nice to see validation that they aren’t all flash in the pan ideas. Some of them really do end up making a positive impact, years after the campaign ends.

Of course, we can’t talk about distributed environmental monitoring without mentioning the fantastic work of [Radu Motisan], who’s made it his mission to put advanced sensors in the hands of citizen scientists.

[Thanks to muA for the tip.]

Live Updates From Maker Faire Bay Area 2018

Maker Faire Bay Area is here! Get a sneak peek at all the must-see exhibits and creators. We'll be updating this post regularly throughout the weekend, so check back regularly.

Read more on MAKE

The post Live Updates From Maker Faire Bay Area 2018 appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Build Your Own Wave Tank

Wave tanks are cool, but it’s likely you don’t have one sitting on your coffee table at home. They’re more likely something you’ve seen in a documentary about oil tankers or icebergs. That need no longer be the case – you can build yourself a wave generator at home!

This build comes to use from [TVMiller] who started by creating a small tank out of acrylic sheet. Servo-actuated paddles are then placed in the tank to generate the periodic motion in the water. Two servos are controlled by an Arduino, allowing a variety of simple and more complex waves to be created in the tank. [TVMiller] has graciously provided the code for the project on Hackaday.io. We’d love to see more detail behind the tank build itself, too – like how the edges were sealed, and how the paddles are hinged.

A wave machine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when doing science at home, but with today’s hardware, it’s remarkable how simple it is to create one. Bonus points if you scale this up to the pool in your backyard – make sure to hit the tip line when you do.


Filed under: classic hacks
Hack a Day 11 Oct 00:00