Looking through my parts boxes, I have counted at least 15 distinct “Arduino boards” in my collection. Either they are variants of the Uno form factor or they have different processors from the 8-bit boards. That number easily goes to 30 if I include boards with just the “Arduino header” on them. This pile of microcontrollers got me thinking, how does anyone ever choose the right board?
For example, I have had several people tell me the ESP32 is the “ultimate Arduino.” But is it? Well, yes and no. Extra hardware you do not need can lead to complexity and unexpected behavior. When using an advanced module like the ESP32, it is important to learn how to use sleep modes to limit current consumption, especially for battery applications. But if you need WiFi, Bluetooth, I2C, SPI, UART, and high-performance processing, capacitive touch, GPIO, and analog inputs then the ESP32 is an obvious choice.
|Appearance:||How to pick from all the Arduino boards|
I have been soldering circuits for twenty-six years. Well, except for the last 6 weeks. I have had a Weller Zero Smog EL fume extraction unit in my lab. It has changed the way I solder. When I first used it, I thought “yes, this is nice. But not a necessity.” Then the other day I didn’t feel like moving the extractor to my secondary workbench. I was immediately irritated with myself for being lazy. The smoke was so annoying. I don’t know what else changed me so quickly.
|Appearance:||Weller Zero Smog EL Review on element14|
As 2017 comes to a close, I looked back to see what readers made the most popular. It was an exciting year. The Arduino family came back together, Adafruit trolled the internet with rumors of a RadioShack buy out, and for me, I changed jobs.
Project wise I got my RetroPie SNES build completed, using an old Super Famicom case. This case is one I bought in Japan for 500 yen (about $5.) This work also led me to discuss voltage divider circuits. And I looked at a couple of scopes.
In case you missed it, here is what you as a reader found interesting over the past year.
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What are aluminum polymer capacitors? These are a solid type of capacitor that replaces the liquid electrolyte with a solid polymer material. Sometimes you might hear these capacitors called “organic aluminum.” Technically, they are still “electrolytic” capacitors. However, the colloquial term of “aluminum electrolytic” refers to the traditional wet electrolyte-based capacitors.
In this video, I meet with Amelia Dalton of EE Journal, and we discuss these capacitor types. Mouser and EE Journal developed the video in joint with KEMET. (Previously I talked on Amelia’s Chalk Talk about SSD Capacitors.)
For me, the release of this video is bittersweet. It is one of my last projects before my departure from KEMET. However, I am excited to talk about aluminum polymer capacitors because they represent one of the “newer” technologies when it comes to capacitors.
As mentioned, the key difference between the capacitor types is the electrolyte. In a traditional aluminum electrolytic, there is an electrolyte that connects the cathode plate of the capacitor to the cathode electrode. In a polymer capacitor, a solid conductive polymer material replaces the wet electrolyte. The most common polymer material is PEDOT. The use of this material provides an exceptionally low ESR which makes the capacitors can handle more ripple current. Also, because there is no electrolyte to “dry up” or “wear out,” the operational lifetime of these capacitors is much longer. Overall, aluminum polymer capacitors are an excellent alternative to traditional electrolytics.
ArcAttack is a band that performs at the Bay Area Maker Fare, among other places. They feature massive signing Telsa coils. (Here’s a video I show when I saw ArcAttack in 2013.) Singing Telsa coils are awesome. Everyone knows that. Which is why I found when Dianna Cowern, the Physics Girl, visited the band ArcAttack, electromagnets are just as cool. In addition to talking about their music, ArcAttack’s Joe does something amazing. He splits an aluminum soda can with just an electromagnet.
There are a few other neat tricks and some slow-motion stuff too. Near the end, he compresses a quarter with the scariest magnet setup I’ve ever seen. This video is definitely worth watching if you like anything related to Tesla coils–or electricity!
Ben Krasnow from Applied Science on YouTube uses his Electron Microscope to compare spinning media. The part of the video that caught my attention is the Vinyl Record. Not only does he show the groove and needle, but he puts it in motion! It’s a great look at how this technology works.
Additionally, I loved how he went into detail about how to prep the record for use in the electron microscope. (Spoiler: he had to make the record and needle conductive.) After the vinyl, he also compares a CD and DVD. The twist is that he also shows how a Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) compares to the vinyl. You never heard of a CED?
If you enjoy Electron Microscope pictures like I do, then you’ll enjoy this video.